Automated mapping of water bodies using Landsat multispectral data

Charles Verpoorter, Tiit Kutser, Lars Tranvik

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 10:1037-1050 (2012) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2012.10.1037

ABSTRACT: The assessment of the role of lakes and impoundments at regional and global scales, e.g., in biogeochemical cycles, requires good estimates of the areal extent and shape of water bodies. Upscaling to large regions, except in limited areas where precise maps are available, so far depends on statistical estimates of the number and size of lakes, which explains why estimates are poor. We present an automated procedure that allows mapping of the actual number, size, and distribution of lakes at large scale. Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) mosaics from the GeoCover Circa 2000 dataset covering the Earth land surfaces with 14.25 m spatial resolution were used as input data. We developed an approach called GWEM (GeoCoverTM Water bodies Extraction Method) that combines remote sensing and GIS to extract water bodies and study their abundance and morphometry. All water bodies greater than 0.0002 km2 were taken into account as lakes. The accuracy of the method was tested on Sweden, where detailed maps of lakes, based on in situ data and orthophotos, exist for the whole country. The proposed method produced accurate results. The largest sources of errors are shadows of mountains and clouds, since the GeoCover mosaics are not absolutely cloud free.