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Investigation of shallow water LiDAR

Ongoing assessment of water body condition is fundamental to meeting the objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). The morphological status of the water bodies has an important role within the WFD, for this reason, an accurate assessment of status of the physical condition will be of paramount importance in order to prioritise actions for the river restoration strategy – including natural flood management measures -  within the River Basin Management Plans (RBMP).

Equally, the assessment and management of flood risk are the key objectives of the EC Flood Directive transposed into the Scotland Flood Risk Management Act (2009). Thus, characterising river and floodplain topography is central to accurately modelling flood risk, which has direct relevance to implementing Flood Risk Management Plans (FRMP).  

These applications demand accurate and up-to-date characterisation of channel hydromorphology, habitat, and response to both natural and human-induced processes (e.g. flooding, land use changes, etc.) which feed into WFD assessments. Currently, such information is largely captured through labour-intensive field surveys, which are usually limited in spatial coverage. However, this research proposes to investigate the emerging remote sensing technique of shallow water bathymetric LiDAR (green LiDAR), which is able to simultaneously capture both in-channel bathymetry and floodplain topography at high spatial resolution. This offers significant potential for applications including hydromorphological characterisation, habitat suitability modelling, flood assessment and hydraulic modelling, as demonstrated by Mandlburger et al. (2015). A pilot study is required to assess the potential of this technology to evaluate physical river restoration projects and inform flood risk management planning.

Project Objectives

  1. Understanding the potential and limitations of shallow water LiDAR, considering flow conditions, river type and vegetation;
  2. Assessing potential for deriving detailed hydromorphological assessments, comparing this to conventional field survey approaches (e.g. morphological walkover, sediment samples, ST:TREAM surveys, etc.);
  3. Evaluating scope for improving river typology classification, i.e. extracting channel bed information from LiDAR and estimate the current river type under impacted/un-impacted conditions;
  4. Assessing potential for detailed 2D hydrodynamic modelling covering: (i) eco-hydraulic: habitat suitability, (ii) morphological modelling: e.g. determination of shear stress and (iii) flood risk modelling.
  5. Identifying key policy areas which would benefit from access to outputs derived from this data. Based on consultation with RBMP and FRMP.
Contact Nikki Dodd