Space-Based Detection of Wetlands' Surface Water Level Changes from L-Band SAR Interferometry

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wetlands, Everglades, surface flow, InSAR

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Interferometric processing of JERS-1 L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data acquired over south Florida during 1993–1996 reveals detectable surface changes in the Everglades wetlands. Although our study is limited to south Florida it has implication for other large-scale wetlands, because south Florida wetlands have diverse vegetation types and both managed and natural flow environments. Our analysis reveals that interferometric coherence level is sensitive to wetland vegetation type and to the interferogram time span. Interferograms with time spans less than six months maintain phase observations for all wetland types, allowing characterization of water level changes in different wetland environments. The most noticeable changes occur between the managed and the natural flow wetlands. In the managed wetlands, fringes are organized, follow patterns related to some of the managed water control structures and have high fringe-rate. In the natural flow areas, fringes are irregular and have a low fringe-rate. The high fringe rate in managed areas reflects dynamic water topography caused by high flow rate due to gate operation. Although this organized fringe pattern is not characteristic of most large-scale wetlands, the high level of water level change enables accurate estimation of the wetland InSAR technique, which lies in the range of 5–10 cm. The irregular and low rate fringe pattern in the natural flow area reflects uninterrupted flow that diffuses water efficiently and evenly. Most of the interferograms in the natural flow area show an elongated fringe located along the transitional zone between salt- and fresh-water wetlands, reflecting water level changes due to ocean tides.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Remote Sensing of Environment, v. 112, issue 3, p. 681-696