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Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4022

Characterization of Instream Hydraulic and Riparian Habitat Conditions and Stream Temperatures of the Upper White River Basin, Washington, Using Multispectral Imaging Systems

Prepared in cooperation with

By Robert W. Black and Alan Haggland, U.S. Geological Survey; and Greg Crosby, Utah State University


Instream hydraulic and riparian habitat conditions and stream temperatures were characterized for selected stream segments in the Upper White River Basin, Washington. An aerial multispectral imaging system used digital cameras to photograph the stream segments across multiple wavelengths to characterize fish habitat and temperature conditions. All imageries were georeferenced. Fish habitat features were photographed at a resolution of 0.5 meter and temperature imageries were photographed at a 1.0-meter resolution. The digital multispectral imageries were classified using commercially available software. Aerial photographs were taken on September 21, 1999. Field habitat data were collected from August 23 to October 12, 1999, to evaluate the measurement accuracy and effectiveness of the multispectral imaging in determining the extent of the instream habitat variables.

Fish habitat types assessed by this method were the abundance of instream hydraulic features such as pool and riffle habitats, turbulent and non-turbulent habitats, riparian composition, the abundance of large woody debris in the stream and riparian zone, and stream temperatures. Factors such as the abundance of instream woody debris, the location and frequency of pools, and stream temperatures generally are known to have a significant impact on salmon. Instream woody debris creates the habitat complexity necessary to maintain a diverse and healthy salmon population. The abundance of pools is indicative of a stream's ability to support fish and other aquatic organisms. Changes in water temperature can affect aquatic organisms by altering metabolic rates and oxygen requirements, altering their sensitivity to toxic materials and affecting their ability to avoid predators.

The specific objectives of this project were to evaluate the use of an aerial multispectral imaging system to accurately identify instream hydraulic features and surface-water temperatures in the Upper White River Basin, to use the multispectral system to help establish baseline instream/riparian habitat conditions in the study area, and to qualitatively assess the imaging system for possible use in other Puget Sound rivers.

For the most part, all multispectral imagery-based estimates of total instream riffle and pool area were less than field measurements. The imagery-based estimates for riffle habitat area ranged from 35.5 to 83.3 percent less than field measurements. Pool habitat estimates ranged from 139.3 percent greater than field measurements to 94.0 percent less than field measurements. Multispectral imagery-based estimates of turbulent habitat conditions ranged from 9.3 percent greater than field measurements to 81.6 percent less than field measurements. Multispectral imagery-based estimates of non-turbulent habitat conditions ranged from 27.7 to 74.1 percent less than field measurements. The absolute average percentage of difference between field and imagery-based habitat type areas was less for the turbulent and non-turbulent habitat type categories than for pools and riffles. The estimate of woody debris by multispectral imaging was substantially different than field measurements; percentage of differences ranged from +373.1 to -100 percent. Although the total area of riffles, pools, and turbulent and non-turbulent habitat types measured in the field were all substantially higher than those estimated from the multispectral imagery, the percentage of composition of each habitat type was not substantially different between the imagery-based estimates and field measurements.


Description of Study Area
Characterization of Instream Hydraulic and Riparian Habitat Conditions and Stream Temperatures
Summary and Conclusions
References Cited

This report is available online in Portable Document Format (PDF). If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader, it is available for free download from Adobe Systems Incorporated.

Download the report (PDF, 9.7 MB)

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Send questions or comments about this report to the author, Robert W. Black (253) 428-3600 ext. 2687.

For more information about USGS activities in Washington, visit the USGS Washington District home page.

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