Parametrizing tidal creek morphology in mature saltmarshes using semi-automated extraction from lidar

C. Chirol*, I. D. Haigh, N. Pontee, C. E. Thompson, S. L. Gallop

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    50 Citations (Scopus)
    63 Downloads (Pure)


    Coastal saltmarshes provide a range of ecosystem services, such as flood protection and carbon sequestration, but face rapid global losses. Managed realignment (MR) is an increasingly popular method to artificially recreate these habitats by reinstating tidal regimes to reclaimed land. However, to improve MR design, better knowledge of the processes that control morphological evolution in natural saltmarshes is needed. In this paper, we develop tools to assist in the monitoring of creek network evolution towards dynamic morphological equilibrium, a state of landform stability under current physical forcings. Using lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) datasets, we combined a semi-automated creek extraction algorithm, based on elevation and slope thresholds, with a novel algorithm for morphometric creek analysis. A comprehensive suite of morphological creek characteristics was extracted for 13 natural British saltmarshes, including: amplitude, length, sinuosity ratio, junction angle, width, depth, cross-sectional area, creek order, bifurcation ratio, drainage density, and drainage efficiency. Results closely matched with field-validated manual digitization results, and were significantly faster and less subjective to produce. Morphological equilibrium relationships from the literature were found to be applicable to the new dataset, despite yielding high prediction errors due to the inherent variety of creek network shapes in saltmarshes. New equilibrium relationships were also defined relating the creek network drainage efficiency to the mouth cross-sectional area and the marsh elevation. To improve future scheme designs, these tools will be used in further studies to monitor rates of evolution towards equilibrium in MR sites depending on their initial conditions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)291-311
    Number of pages21
    JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • British Isles
    • channel delineation
    • coastal wetlands
    • creek network
    • lidar
    • managed realignment
    • morphological equilibrium
    • morphometry


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