Analysis and visualisation of digital elevation data for catchment management

Al-Yami, Mesfer (2014) Analysis and visualisation of digital elevation data for catchment management. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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River catchments are an obvious scale for soil and water resources management, since their shape and characteristics control the pathways and fluxes of water and sediment. Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) are widely used to simulate overland water paths in hydrological models. However, all DEMs are approximations to some degree and it is widely recognised that their characteristics can vary according to attributes such as spatial resolution and data sources (e.g. contours, optical or radar imagery). As a consequence, it is important to assess the ‘fitness for purpose’ of different DEMs and evaluate how uncertainty in the terrain representation may propagate into hydrological derivatives.
The overall aim of this research was to assess accuracies and uncertainties associated with seven different DEMs (ASTER GDEM1, SRTM, Landform Panorama (OS 50), Landform Profile (OS 10), LandMap, NEXTMap and Bluesky DTMs) and to explore the implications of their use in hydrological analysis and catchment management applications. The research focused on the Wensum catchment in Norfolk, UK. The research initially examined the accuracy of the seven DEMs and, subsequently, a subset of these (SRTM, OS 50, OS10, NEXTMap and Bluesky) were used to evaluate different techniques for determining an appropriate flow accumulation threshold to delineate channel networks in the study catchment. These results were then used to quantitatively compare the positional accuracy of drainage networks derived from different DEMs. The final part of the thesis conducted an assessment of soil erosion and diffuse pollution risk in the study catchment using NEXTMap and OS 50 data with SCIMAP and RUSLE modelling techniques.
Findings from the research demonstrate that a number of nationally available DEMs in the UK are simply not ‘fit for purpose’ as far as local catchment management is concerned. Results indicate that DEM source and resolution have considerable influence on modelling of
hydrological processes, suggesting that for a lowland catchment the availability of a high resolution DEM (5m or better) is a prerequisite for any reliable assessment of the consequences of implementing particular land management measures.
Several conclusions can be made from the research. (1) From the collection of DEMs used in this study the NEXTMap 5m DTM was found to be the best for representing catchment topography and is likely to prove a superior product for similar applications in other lowland catchments across the UK. (2) It is important that error modelling techniques are more routinely employed by GIS users, particularly where the fitness for purpose of a data source is not well-established. (3) GIS modelling tools that can be used to test and trial alternative management options (e.g. for reducing soil erosion) are particularly helpful in simulating the effect of possible environmental improvement measures.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Jackie Webb
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2015 15:31
Last Modified: 30 Jun 2015 15:31


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