Ecohydrological metrics derived from multispectral images to characterize surface water in an intermittent river

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Accurately describing the hydrology of intermittent rivers is a critical step in improving our understanding and management of freshwater ecosystems. Traditional approaches such as using gauged discharge data provide little information once flow ceases and no insight into the location, morphology, or persistence of river pools. However, multispectral images can be used to describe surface water, characterize hydrology, and provide insight into ecological functioning. A multispectral approach is highly cost-effective and well suited to remote intermittent rivers with little or no gauging infrastructure. Here, we develop an algorithm to extract hydrological attributes (i.e., pool area, length, perimeter, and mean width) from multispectral imagery (Sentinel-2) and use these attributes to create a suite of ecologically relevant hydrological metrics. We describe changes in attributes and metrics in a large lowland intermittent river as it transitions from wet to dry over a four-year period. We also describe temporal changes in attributes and metrics among five river sections with contrasting hydrological persistence and fragmentation. Our algorithm successfully identified surface water in the main channel and the adjacent floodplain, the centerline of pools, and their upstream and downstream ends. Metrics proved effective at describing seasonal patterns in hydrology; revealing how the size, complexity, and elongation of surface water features (e.g., pools) decreased as the study river transitioned from wet to dry and how fragmentation increased. Metrics also successfully differentiated the river sections with varied hydrological persistence. Ecohydrological metrics derived from multispectral imagery have the potential to provide meaningful insights into riverine morphology, resilience, and ecological functioning. Our spatial approach represents a significant advancement in the ability to characterize and manage intermittent rivers, which are increasingly threatened by water resource development and a drying climate.
Original languageEnglish
Article number129087
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'Ecohydrological metrics derived from multispectral images to characterize surface water in an intermittent river'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this