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High resolution C-band SAR backscatter response to peatland water table depth and soil moisture: a laboratory experiment

Toča, L., Morrison, K. ORCID:, Artz, R. R. E., Gimona, A. and Quaife, T. ORCID: (2022) High resolution C-band SAR backscatter response to peatland water table depth and soil moisture: a laboratory experiment. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 43 (14). pp. 5231-5251. ISSN 0143-1161

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/01431161.2022.2131478


Carbon storage and active carbon sequestration within peatlands strongly depend on water table depth and soil moisture availability. With increasing efforts to protect and restore peatland ecosystems, the assessment of their hydrological condition is highly necessary but remains challenging. Synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite observations likely offer an efficient way to obtain regular information with complete spatial coverage over northern peatlands. Studies have indicated that both radar backscatter amplitude and phase are sensitive to peatland condition. Very recently, Differential Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (DInSAR) has been reported as being capable of monitoring ground deformation patterns at the millimetre scale, which are a response to peatland hydrological condition. To further investigate the promise of SAR for peatland monitoring, a laboratory-based polarimetric C-band SAR system was used to acquire the dynamic radar behaviour of a 4 m (l) ×1 m (w) × 0.25 m (d) reconstructed peatland. A forced 4-month drought was introduced with very-high-resolution imagery taken every 2 hours, capturing details of the vertical backscatter patterning through the peat at the centimetric scale. The results showed a clear coherent response both in radar backscatter amplitude and phase to change in water table level and soil moisture. Similar responses were seen across all polarizations. Phase demonstrated a coherent and deterministic change across the experiment; the average differential phase increase across all polarizations was 118° for 17 cm of water table drawdown. Interpreted as the physical movement of the surface, this corresponded to 8.3 mm of surface subsidence. Both phase and amplitude changes were near-linear with changes in the water table depth; amplitude showed a correspondingly strong concomitant mean decrease of 7 dB across all polarizations during the experiment. The results demonstrate the close sensitivity of radar backscatter to hydrological patterns in a peatland ecosystem. The phase result, in particular, strongly supports the notion that differential phase from satellites can be utilized to measure ground deformation as a proxy for the hydrological state.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:107913
Publisher:Taylor & Francis


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