Assessing the potential for Environmental Sensitivity Index mapping in the Arctic using Synthetic Aperture Radar

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Tags: soil, vegetation, ecology, environmental sensitivity index, shoreline, spectrometry

Principal Investigator: Duffe, Jason A (3)
Licence Number: 15081
Organization: Environment Canada
Licenced Year(s): 2012 2011 2010
Issued: Jun 07, 2012

Objective(s): To fly oblique helicopter videography along the Beaufort Sea shoreline from the Alaska/Yukon border to the Northwest Territories/Nunavut border, to interpret helicopter videography and create an Environmental Sensitivity Index map, and to produce a land cover classification methodology that is comparable in terms of the number and accuracy of identified shoreline types obtained.

Project Description: The objectives of this research project are to:
(1) fly oblique helicopter videography along the Beaufort Sea shoreline from the Alaska/Yukon border to the Northwest Territories/Nunavut border;
(2) using conventional methods, interpret helicopter videography and create an Environmental Sensitivity Index map. This will consist of a vector shapefile of shoreline types; and
(3) using satellite radar imagery, attempt to produce a land cover classification methodology that is comparable in terms of the number and accuracy of identified shoreline types obtained using the conventional method of Environmental Sensitivity Index mapping.

Oblique helicopter videography taken at 80 knots and at altitudes of less than 1000 feet is planned for late July and August and will be acquired for the entire coastline of the Beaufort Sea from the Alaska/Yukon border to the Northwest Territories/Nunavut border. At five selected sites of interest, ground-based measurements will be collected using remote sensing instruments such as: tripod-mounted ground-based LIDAR, handheld spectroradiometer and chlorophyll meter. In addition, visual observations and across-shore video/photo transects will be used to document soil and vegetation type, vegetation height and percent cover estimates. Transects will start at the shore and will move inland. Each transect will be approximately 50 m long, however this will depend on the spatial complexity of the area. No vegetation or soil samples will be collected and an attempt will be made to minimize disturbance. RADARSAT-2 imagery acquisition over selected sites of interest is planned. This will closely coincide with the scheduled field season, so that field measurements and observations regarding surface conditions (e.g., surface roughness) can be directly related to values in the radar imagery. In order to define optimal parameters for classification and differentiation of shoreline types, it will be necessary to:
(1) test different radar imagery incidence angles and polarizations;
(2) test different radar filters and textures; and
(3) test different classification and radar decomposition methods.

Many of the areas that could potentially be affected by the effects of an oil spill are both culturally and/or ecologically significant. The Environmental Emergencies section of Environment Canada (EC) works as a team member in the event of a spill response. It is expected that the mapping methods explored by this research project will improve the state of preparedness for environmental emergencies in the North and contribute to EC's ability to respond quickly and effectively to an emergency in order to lessen potential impacts. As a result, community benefits from this project are significant.

The Joint Secretariat and the Mackenzie Delta Oil Spill Co-op will be engaged to inform communities of significant results and provide knowledge transfer as well as training for on-site emergency spill response.

Results of this analysis will be provided to community members, the Joint Secretariat and stakeholders within the study site region. The Joint Secretariat has been engaged in the project to interface with the communities for spill preparedness training and knowledge transfer from Environment Canada.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from July 1, 2012 to September 30, 2012.