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Remote sensing of stream channels

Posted date: January 23, 2015
Publication Year: 
Authors: McKean, James (Jim) A.;
Document type: Briefing Papers


Streams are dynamic landscape elements that integrate and reflect the terrestrial and hydrologic components of a watershed. The costs, logistics, and spatial extent of stream networks on Forest Service lands often limit stream studies and monitoring efforts to restricted spatial scales. Methods are needed to seamlessly map terrestrial and aquatic features at high resolution across broad areas if the response of these critical systems to management and disturbances is to be adequately understood.

Key Findings:

  • A new water penetrating green LiDAR system is being tested and applied in mountain streams.
  • Green LiDAR can provide synoptic data for submerged channel features, floodplains, and terrestrial vegetation structure.
  • High-resolution (1-2 m) data across broad areas can be rapidly collected.
  • Green LiDAR data can be used for inventory mapping, monitoring and change detection, or dynamic modeling of stream environments.
  • The technology promises great improvements in costs and efficiency of stream studies.