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Predicting inundation dynamics and hydroperiods of small, isolated wetlands using a machine learning approach

July 10, 2023

The duration of inundation or saturation (i.e., hydroperiod) controls many wetland functions. In particular, it is a key determinant of whether a wetland will provide suitable breeding habitat for amphibians and other taxa that often have specific hydrologic requirements. Yet, scientists and land managers often are challenged by a lack of sufficient monitoring data to enable the understanding of the wetting and drying dynamics of small depressional wetlands. In this study, we present and evaluate an approach to predict daily inundation dynamics using a large wetland water-level dataset and a random forest algorithm. We relied on predictor variables that described characteristics of basin morphology of each wetland and atmospheric water budget estimates over various antecedent periods. These predictor variables were derived from datasets available over the conterminous United States making this approach potentially extendable to other locations. Model performance was evaluated using two metrics, median hydroperiod and the proportion of correctly classified days. We found that models performed well overall with a median balanced accuracy of 83% on validation data. Median hydroperiod was predicted most accurately for wetlands that were infrequently inundated and least accurate for permanent wetlands. The proportion of inundated days was predicted most accurately in permanent wetlands (99%) followed by frequently inundated wetlands (98%) and infrequently inundated wetlands (93%). This modeling approach provided accurate estimates of inundation and could be useful in other depressional wetlands where the primary water flux occurs with the atmosphere and basin morphology is a critical control on wetland inundation and hydroperiods.

Publication Year 2023
Title Predicting inundation dynamics and hydroperiods of small, isolated wetlands using a machine learning approach
DOI 10.1007/s13157-023-01706-2
Authors Jeffrey W. Riley, Charles C. Stillwell
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Wetlands
Index ID 70249566
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization South Atlantic Water Science Center