An assessment of the use of remote sensing to map habitat features important to sustaining lamprey populations



  • 1.This study describes the use of colour aerial photography and Airborne Thematic Mapper (ATM) multispectral imagery (420–1050 nm) to map gravel-bed river habitats important to sustaining river lamprey (Lampetra fluviatilis) — an aquatic species with high conservation interest in Europe. The accuracy of the remote sensing approach was assessed by comparing the output from automated mapping of physical habitat features using image analysis and GIS and habitat maps derived from field survey.
  • 2.Unsupervised classification of the aerial photography and ATM imagery mapped hydraulic habitat such as pools and riffles with overall accuracies of 57% and 65.5% respectively. Submerged sand and silt deposits, which are important to river lamprey ammocoetes could not be identified on the imagery by simple unsupervised or supervised classification. They could be mapped indirectly, however, by association between their presence and morphological attributes such as backwaters and embayments in the bank profile detectable on the imagery. Remotely determining the likely presence and location of lamprey ammocoete habitat can be useful in planning detailed electrofishing campaigns to estimate lamprey densities, to assess conservation status and any change over time, and to determine the need for restoration strategies.
  • 3.The results suggest that on rivers wider than 20 m without a continuous wooded riparian fringe, and where there is good quality imagery, it is possible to automate mapping of physical habitat features important to many river species with high nature conservation interest. As a result organizations charged with monitoring and conserving river species should consider investing in airborne imagery covering river systems of high conservation value.

Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.