Milan D.J. and Heritage G. and Hetherington D. (2007)

Application of a 3D laser scanner in the assessment of erosion and deposition volumes and channel change in a proglacial river

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Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
Previous studies of channel morphological change have often relied upon sparse spatial and temporal data-sets, resulting in a degree of uncertainty in their conclusions. Furthermore, previous methodologies have been unable to quantify small-scale changes in channels composed of sand and fine gravel due to inadequate data density. This study reports the use of a high-resolution 3D laser scanner (LMS-Z210) in the assessment of erosion and deposition volumes in the proglacial zone of Glacier du Ferpècle and Mont Miné, Switzerland. High-resolution (>500 points/m2) data obtained across a 5881 m2 area of braid plain during the early part of the melt-water season permitted digital elevation models (DEMs) of bar surfaces and channels to be produced. The approach negates the need for complex surface interpolation algorithms required in surveys with lower point density, e.g. those obtained from global positioning systems or total stations. Furthermore, the technique has the advantage of being able to cover a large area over a comparatively short time period. Laser scanner returns revealed high vertical precision, ±0·02 m, for dry bar surfaces; however, submerged areas (<0·2 m depth) returned lower precision, with a range of −0·15 to +0·06 m. To account for this, different levels of detection (LoD) were applied to the dry and wet parts of the study reach during DEM subtraction. Subtraction of successive DEMs revealed two short depositional episodes over the ten-day study, with erosion dominating in between. Three episodes of avulsion were identified, two of which appeared to be triggered by constriction avulsion, whilst the other was initiated by bar-edge erosion. Transient lobes and sediment sheets could also be identified at the downstream end of the reach, as could lobe progradation. Relatively minor, but common, changes in channel morphology could also be detected, such as bar edge accretion, bank erosion and chute development. In an analysis of the effects of survey frequency upon volumes calculated following DEM subtraction, daily surveys were found to increase erosion volumes by 67 per cent and deposition volumes by 14 per cent when compared with an 8-day survey interval.