Influence of river channel morphology and bank characteristics on water surface boundary delineation using high-resolution passive remote sensing and template matching Academic Article uri icon


  • Accurate mapping of water surface boundaries in rivers is an important step for monitoring water stages, estimating discharge, flood extent, and geomorphic response to changing hydrologic conditions, and assessing riverine habitat. Nonetheless, it is a challenging task in spatially and spectrally heterogeneous river environments, commonly characterized by high spatiotemporal variations in morphology, bed material, and bank cover. In this study, we investigate the influence of channel morphology and bank characteristics on the delineation of water surface boundaries in rivers using high spatial resolution passive remote sensing and a template-matching (object-based) algorithm, and compare its efficacy with that of Support Vector Machine (SVM) (pixel-based) algorithm. We perform a detailed quantitative evaluation of boundary-delineation accuracy using spatially explicit error maps in tandem with the spatial maps of geomorphic and bank classes. Results show that template matching is more successful than SVM in delineating water surface boundaries in river sections with spatially challenging geomorphic landforms (e.g. sediment bar structures, partially submerged sediment deposits) and shallow water conditions. However, overall delineation accuracy by SVM is higher than that of template matching (without iterative hierarchical learning). Vegetation and water indices, especially when combined with texture information, improve the accuracy of template matching, for example, in river sections with overhanging trees and shadows - the two most problematic conditions in water surface boundary delineation. By identifying the influence of channel morphology and bank characteristics on water surface boundary mapping, this study helps determine river sections with higher uncertainty in delineation. In turn, the most suitable methods and data sets can be selectively utilized to improve geomorphic/hydraulic characterization. The methodology developed here can also be applied to similar studies on other geomorphic landforms including floodplains, wetlands, lakes, and coastlines. 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Gueneralp, I., Filippi, A. M., & Hales, B.

citation count

  • 14

complete list of authors

  • Gueneralp, Inci||Filippi, Anthony M||Hales, Billy

publication date

  • June 2014