Measuring floodplain spatial patterns using continuous surface metrics at multiple scales

Murray W. Scown, Martin C. Thoms, Nathan R. De Jager

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Interactions between fluvial processes and floodplain ecosystems occur upon a floodplain surface that is often physically complex. Spatial patterns in floodplain topography have only recently been quantified over multiple scales, and discrepancies exist in how floodplain surfaces are perceived to be spatially organised. We measured spatial patterns in floodplain topography for pool 9 of the Upper Mississippi River, USA, using moving window analyses of eight surface metrics applied to a 1×1m2 DEM over multiple scales. The metrics used were Range, SD, Skewness, Kurtosis, CV, SDCURV, Rugosity, and Vol:Area, and window sizes ranged from 10 to 1000m in radius. Surface metric values were highly variable across the floodplain and revealed a high degree of spatial organisation in floodplain topography. Moran's I correlograms fit to the landscape of each metric at each window size revealed that patchiness existed at nearly all window sizes, but the strength and scale of patchiness changed within window size, suggesting that multiple scales of patchiness and patch structure exist in the topography of this floodplain. Scale thresholds in the spatial patterns were observed, particularly between the 50 and 100m window sizes for all surface metrics and between the 500 and 750m window sizes for most metrics. These threshold scales are~15-20% and 150% of the main channel width (1-2% and 10-15% of the floodplain width), respectively. These thresholds may be related to structuring processes operating across distinct scale ranges. By coupling surface metrics, multi-scale analyses, and correlograms, quantifying floodplain topographic complexity is possible in ways that should assist in clarifying how floodplain ecosystems are structured.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-101
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Sept 5
Externally publishedYes

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Physical Geography

Free keywords

  • Floodplain
  • Scale
  • Spatial pattern
  • Surface metrics


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