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High-resolution wetness index mapping: A useful tool for regional scale wetland management

Higginbottom, Thomas P and Field, CD and Rosenburgh, AE and Wright, A and Symeonakis, E and Caporn, SJM (2018) High-resolution wetness index mapping: A useful tool for regional scale wetland management. Ecological Informatics, 48. pp. 89-96. ISSN 1574-9541

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Abstract

Wetland ecosystems are key habitats for carbon sequestration, biodiversity and ecosystem services, yet in many they localities have been subject to modification or damage. In recent years, there has been increasing focus on effective management and, where possible, restoration of wetlands. Whilst this is highly laudable, practical implementation is limited by the high costs and unpredictable rates of success. Accordingly, there is a need for spatial information to guide restoration, ideally at the regional scale that land managers operate. In this study, we use high-resolution Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR)-derived elevation, in conjunction with regional soil and land cover maps, to model the wetness potential of an area of conservation importance in north-west England. We use the Compound Topographic Index (CTI) as a measure for the site-specific wetness and potential to be receptive to wetland restoration. The resulting model is in agreement with the regional-scale distribution of wetlands and is clearly influenced by the topographic and soil parameters. An assessment of three representative case studies highlights the small scale features that determine the potential wetness of an area. For each site, the model results conform to the expected patterns of wetness, highlighting restoration and management activity. Furthermore, areas showing high potential wetness that may be suitable for wetland habitat creation, are highlighted. The increasing availability of LiDAR data at regional and national scales will allow studies of this nature to be undertaken at previously unobtainable resolutions. Simple models, such as implemented here, benefit from explainability and relatability and have clear potential for use by managers and conservation agencies involved in wetland restoration.

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