Geostatistical analysis of ground-survey elevation data to elucidate spatial and temporal river channel change



A digital elevation model (DEM) of a fluvial environment represented landform surface variability well and provided a medium for monitoring morphological change over time. Elevation was measured above an arbitrary datum using a ground-based three-dimensional tacheometric survey in two reaches of the River Nent, UK, in July 1998, October 1998 (after flood conditions) and June 1999. A detailed geostatistical analysis of the elevation data was used to model the spatial variation of elevation and to produce DEMs in each reach and for each survey period. Maps of the difference in elevation were produced and volumetric change was calculated for each reach and each survey period. The parameters of variogram models were used to describe the morphological character of each reach and to elucidate the linkages between process and the form of channel change operating at different spatial and temporal scales.

The analysis of channel change on the River Nent shows the potential of geostatistics for investigating the magnitude and frequency of geomorphic work in other rivers. A flood modified the channel features, but low magnitude and high frequency flows rationalized the morphology. In spite of relatively small amounts of net flux the channel features changed as a consequence of the reworking of existing material. The blocking of chute entrances and redirection of the channel had a considerable effect on the behaviour of the channel. Such small changes suggested that the distributary system was sensitive to variation in sediment regime.

Plots of the kriging variances against sampling intervals were used to quantify the temporal variation in sampling redundancy (ranging between −11 per cent and +93 per cent). These curves illustrated the importance of bespoke sampling designs to reduce sampling effort by incorporating anisotropic variation in space and geomorphic information on flow regime. Variation in the nugget parameter of the variogram models was interpreted as sampling inaccuracy caused by variability in particle size and is believed to be important for future work on surface roughness. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.