Techniques for collecting high resolution digital elevation models (DEMs) of fluvial environments are cheaper and more widely accessible than ever before. These DEMs improve over traditional transect-based approaches because they represent the channel bed as a continuous surface. Advantages beyond the obvious more accurate representations of channel area and volume include the three dimensional representation of geomorphic features that directly influence the behavior of river organisms. It is possible to identify many of these habitats using topography alone, but when combined with the spatial arrangement of these areas within the channel, a more holistic view of biologic existence can be gleaned from the three dimensional representation of the channel. We present a new approach for measuring and describing channels that leverages the continuous nature of digital elevation model surfaces. Delivered via the River Bathymetry Toolkit (RBT) this approach is capable of not only reproducing the traditional transect-based metrics, but also includes novel techniques for generating stage independent channel measurements, regardless of the flow that occurred at the time of data capture. The RBT also possesses the capability of measuring changes over time, accounting for uncertainty using approaches adopted from the Geomorphic Change Detection (GCD) literature and producing maps and metrics for erosion and deposition. This new approach is available via the River Bathymetry Toolit that is structured to enable repeat systematic measurements over an unlimited number of sites. We present how this approach has been applied to over 500 sites in the Pacific Northwest as part of the Columbia Habitat Mapping Program (CHaMP). We demonstrate the new channel metrics for a range of these sites, both at the observed and simulated flows as well as examples of changes in channel morphology over time. We present an analysis comparing these new metrics against traditional transect based measurements taken from the DEM.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/joseph_wheaton/76/