Synthetic Aperture Radar and Optical Mapping Used to Monitor Change and Replacement of Phragmites australis Marsh in the Lower Mississippi River Delta, Louisiana

Open-File Report 2021-1046
Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
By:  and 



Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mapping of density as an enhancement of Phragmites australis optical live fractional cover (LFC) mapping was carried out in the lower Mississippi Delta during 2016 to 2019. Also, as part of the study, the replacement of P. australis with elephant-ear was analyzed. To that end, yearly maps from 2016 to 2019 of L-band SAR horizontal send, vertical receive (HV) data representing marsh density were produced for the lower Mississippi River Delta. The mapping indicated high local variability within broad yearly density change in P. australis marsh. LFC mapping indicated a similar pattern of broad yearly change. That overall density and LFC linear correspondence was confirmed with regressions of P. australis marsh HV-density data and optical-LFC data. Local differences reflected as high scatter in the plots. Based on those results, a combined LFC and HV-density assessment tracker of P. australis condition was developed. Major findings from the use of the trajectory tool were the high decrease in HV density from 2016 to 2017, the identification of severely degraded P. australis marsh and European P. australis marsh in some areas, and indications of linkage between the density decline from 2016 to 2017 and the elephant-ear replacement from 2018 to 2019. The trajectory tool application also indicated an inverse relationship between elephant-ear occurrence and HV-density changes from 2018 to 2019. A similar but weaker relationship was found between elephant-ear and LFC. These relationships may provide a means for early detection of replacement of P. australis marsh by elephant-ear and other unwanted plant species.

Suggested Citation

Ramsey, E.W., III, and Rangoonwala, A., 2021, Synthetic aperture radar and optical mapping used to monitor change and replacement of Phragmites australis marsh in the lower Mississippi River Delta, Louisiana: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2021–1046, 19 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Summary
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Synthetic aperture radar and optical mapping used to monitor change and replacement of Phragmites australis marsh in the Lower Mississippi River Delta, Louisiana
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2021-1046
DOI 10.3133/ofr20211046
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description vii, 19 p.
Country United States
State Louisiana
Other Geospatial Lower Mississippi River Delta
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details