LOOKNorth partners for project to better understand boreal wetlands by fusing remote sensing data from multiple sources.

The most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, wetlands play an important role in environmental health, contributing to water purification, flood control and shoreline stability, as well as providing habitat for a wealth of plant and animal life. Yet wetlands in boreal systems remain poorly understood. Today, new technologies are offering the potential to map Newfoundland & Labrador’s wetlands in a thorough, detailed and cost-effective manner.

Project overview

Canada owns approximately 25% of the world’s total wetlands. Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the most wetland-rich provinces in Canada, but it is the only province in Atlantic Canada that lacks a wetland inventory system. Led by C-CORE’s Dr. Salehi as principal investigator, a team of Ph.D. and MSc. students at Memorial University’s Faculty of Engineering and Department of Geography have developed an advanced semi-automatic remote sensing image processing framework for wetland classification. The framework comprises multiple algorithms including segmentation, feature extraction, and random forest classification to map wetlands and classify them into five major wetland classes according to the Canadian Wetland Inventory system: bog, fen, marsh, swamp, and shallow water.

The project is broadly collaborative, engaging a wide range of partners: C-CORE and several federal and provincial organizations including Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, Ducks Unlimited Canada, the Provincial Department of Environment and Conservation Wildlife Division and Water Resource Management Division, and Nature Conservancy Canada. The method has been developed and tested on five sites across the province and now we are in the phase of automatic generation of provincial wetland inventory and wetland monitoring.

This project was undertaken with the financial support of the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change, the former Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador – RDC (now InnovateNL), and Ducks Unlimited Canada. The SAR imagery was provided by the Canada Center for Mapping and Earth Observation and Environment and Climate Change Canada. Field data was collected by various organizations including Ducks Unlimited Canada, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Environment and Conservation, and Nature Conservancy Canada. We thank these organizations for their support and for providing such valuable datasets.

Further information and access to the wetlands inventory is available at www.nlwetlands.ca