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Open-File Report 2008–1320

Preliminary Classification of Water Areas Within the Atchafalaya Basin Floodway System by Using Landsat Imagery

By Yvonne C. Allen, Glenn C. Constant, and Brady R. Couvillion


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The southern portion of the Atchafalaya Basin Floodway System (ABFS) is a large area (2,571 km2) in south central Louisiana bounded on the east and west sides by a levee system. The ABFS is a sparsely populated area that includes some of the Nation’s most significant extents of bottomland hardwoods, swamps, bayous, and backwater lakes, holding a rich abundance and diversity of terrestrial and aquatic species.

The seasonal flow of water through the ABFS is critical to maintaining its ecological integrity. Because of strong interdependencies among species, habitat quality, and water flow in the ABFS, there is a need to better define the paths by which water moves at various stages of the hydrocycle. Although river level gages have collected a long historical record of water level variation, very little synoptic information has been available regarding the distribution and character of water at more remote locations in the basin.

Most water management plans for the ABFS strive to improve water quality by increasing water flow and circulation from the main stem of the Atchafalaya River into isolated areas. To describe the distribution of land and water on a basin-wide scale, we chose to use Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 imagery to determine the extent of water distribution from 1985 to 2006 and at a variety of river stages. Because the visual signature of river water is high turbidity, we also used Landsat imagery to describe the distribution of turbid water in the ABFS. The ability to track water flow patterns by tracking turbid waters will enhance the characterization of water movement and aid in planning.

Version 1.0

Posted December 2008

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Suggested citation:

Allen, Y.C., Constant, G.C., and Couvillion, B.R., 2008, Preliminary classification of water areas within the Atchafalaya Basin Floodway System by using Landsat imagery: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008–1320, 14 p.





Conclusions and Potential Application

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