Riparian zones contain important ecosystems with a high biodiversity and relevant ecosystem services. From a process point of view, riparian zones are characterized by the interaction of hydrological, geomorphological and ecological processes. Consequently, their boundary is dynamic and blurred as it depends on not only the local valley morphology but also the hydrological regime. This makes a delineation of riparian zones from digital elevation data a challenging task as it should represent this blurred nature of riparian zone boundaries. While the application of high resolution topography from LIDAR and hydraulic models have become standard in many developed countries, studies and applications in remote areas still commonly rely on the freely available coarse resolution digital elevation models. In this article, we present the delineation of riparian zones from the SRTM-1 elevation model and fuzzy membership functions for the Naryn River in Kyrgyzstan having a length of approximately 700 km. We evaluate the extraction of the underlying channel network as well as the different indicator variables. The maximum user's accuracy for the delineation of riparian zones along the entire Naryn River is 82.14% reflecting the uncertainty arising from the heterogeneity of the riverscape as well as from the quality of the underlying elevation data. Despite the uncertainty, the fuzzy membership approach is considered as an appropriate method for riparian zone delineation as it reflects their dynamic, transitional character and can be used as indicator of connectivity within a riverscape.
Geomorphology – Elsevier
Published: Apr 1, 2018
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