Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Delineation of marsh types of the Texas coast from Corpus Christi Bay to the Sabine River in 2010

July 10, 2014

Coastal zone managers and researchers often require detailed information regarding emergent marsh vegetation types for modeling habitat capacities and needs of marsh-reliant wildlife (such as waterfowl and alligator). Detailed information on the extent and distribution of marsh vegetation zones throughout the Texas coast has been historically unavailable. In response, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation and collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via the Gulf Coast Joint Venture, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and Ducks Unlimited, Inc., has produced a classification of marsh vegetation types along the middle and upper Texas coast from Corpus Christi Bay to the Sabine River. This study incorporates approximately 1,000 ground reference locations collected via helicopter surveys in coastal marsh areas and about 2,000 supplemental locations from fresh marsh, water, and “other” (that is, nonmarsh) areas. About two-thirds of these data were used for training, and about one-third were used for assessing accuracy. Decision-tree analyses using Rulequest See5 were used to classify emergent marsh vegetation types by using these data, multitemporal satellite-based multispectral imagery from 2009 to 2011, a bare-earth digital elevation model (DEM) based on airborne light detection and ranging (lidar), alternative contemporary land cover classifications, and other spatially explicit variables believed to be important for delineating the extent and distribution of marsh vegetation communities. Image objects were generated from segmentation of high-resolution airborne imagery acquired in 2010 and were used to refine the classification. The classification is dated 2010 because the year is both the midpoint of the multitemporal satellite-based imagery (2009–11) classified and the date of the high-resolution airborne imagery that was used to develop image objects. Overall accuracy corrected for bias (accuracy estimate incorporates true marginal proportions) was 91 percent (95 percent confidence interval [CI]: 89.2–92.8), with a kappa statistic of 0.79 (95 percent CI: 0.77–0.81). The classification performed best for saline marsh (user’s accuracy 81.5 percent; producer’s accuracy corrected for bias 62.9 percent) but showed a lesser ability to discriminate intermediate marsh (user’s accuracy 47.7 percent; producer’s accuracy corrected for bias 49.5 percent). Because of confusion in intermediate and brackish marsh classes, an alternative classification containing only three marsh types was created in which intermediate and brackish marshes were combined into a single class. Image objects were reattributed by using this alternative three-marsh-type classification. Overall accuracy, corrected for bias, of this more general classification was 92.4 percent (95 percent CI: 90.7–94.2), and the kappa statistic was 0.83 (95 percent CI: 0.81–0.85). Mean user’s accuracy for marshes within the four-marsh-type and three-marsh-type classifications was 65.4 percent and 75.6 percent, respectively, whereas mean producer’s accuracy was 56.7 percent and 65.1 percent, respectively.

This study provides a more objective and repeatable method for classifying marsh types of the middle and upper Texas coast at an extent and greater level of detail than previously available for the study area. The seamless classification produced through this work is now available to help State agencies (such as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department) and landscape-scale conservation partnerships (such as the Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative and the Gulf Coast Joint Venture) to develop and (or) refine conservation plans targeting priority natural resources. Moreover, these data may improve projections of landscape change and serve as a baseline for monitoring future changes resulting from chronic and episodic stressors.

Publication Year 2014
Title Delineation of marsh types of the Texas coast from Corpus Christi Bay to the Sabine River in 2010
DOI 10.3133/sir20145110
Authors Nicholas M. Enwright, Stephen B. Hartley, Michael G. Brasher, Jenneke M. Visser, Michael K. Mitchell, Bart M. Ballard, Mark W. Parr, Brady R. Couvillion, Barry C. Wilson
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2014-5110
Index ID sir20145110
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wetlands Research Center