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Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface

Land subsidence of natural transitional environments by satellite radar interferometry on artificial reflectors

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Abstract

[1] Land subsidence is a widespread phenomenon, particularly relevant to transitional environments, such as wetlands, deltas, and lagoons, characterized by low elevation with respect to the mean sea level. Satellite synthetic aperture radar (SAR) interferometry offers the possibility to effectively and precisely measure land displacements for dry surfaces or anthropogenic structures, but difficulties arise in identifying long-term stable targets in natural transitional regions. In order to improve the coverage of satellite SAR interferometry in salt marshes within the Venice Lagoon (Italy), we installed a network of 57 Trihedral Corner Reflectors (TCRs). The TCRs were monitored by ENVISAT ASAR and TerraSAR-X acquisitions covering the time period from November 2006 to September 2011. The results show that the northern lagoon basin is subsiding at ~3 mm/yr and that the central and southern portions are more stable. Larger subsidence rates, up to 6 mm/yr, are measured where surficial loads, such as artificial salt marshes or embankments, rise above the lagoon bottom. The accuracy of TerraSAR-X is greater than ENVISAT due to the shorter wavelength and higher spatial resolution in relationship to the size of the TCRs. The observations obtained in the Venice Lagoon indicate that SAR interferometry using a large network of artificial reflectors is an effective and powerful methodology to monitor land subsidence in transitional environments where the loss of elevation with respect to the mean sea level can yield significant morphological changes to the natural environment.

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