Revealing 35 years of landcover dynamics in floodplains of trained lowland rivers using satellite data

Valesca Harezlak*, Gertjan W. Geerling, Christine K. Rogers, W.Ellis Penning, Denie C.M. Augustijn, Suzanne J.M.H. Hulscher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


Lacking substantial erosive and sedimentation forces, regulated rivers allow their floodplains to become overgrown with forest, increasing the flood risk of the hinterland. In the Netherlands, floodplains have therefore been subjected to interventions, like clear cutting, lowering and creation of side channels, and management, consisting of grazing and mowing. However, the comprehension of how those activities influence landcover dynamics is lacking. The aim of this study is therefore to investigate long‐term landcover dynamics of a regulated river system through the lens of remote sensing. What transitions between landcover classes can be observed? And how (if) do management and interventions impact succession and retrogression of landcover classes? The study area comprised the upstream part of the Dutch Rhine River, its three branches and five adjacent floodplains. Satellite data (LandSat 5 and 8), encompassing a 35‐year period (1984–2018), were used for studying landcover dynamics. Landcover classification was based on seven classes: water, built‐up area, bare substrate, grass, herbaceous vegetation, shrubs and forest. Retrogression was highest for the landcover classes obstructing water flow (shrubs, forest and herbaceous vegetation), succession was most frequent on bare substrate, and water and grass were the most stable landcover classes. The regulated nature of the system became apparent from the spatial and temporal cacophony of landcover dynamics which differ from those of natural meandering rivers. This study showed that satellite data are useful for analyzing the impact of human activities within floodplains of regulated rivers and may assist in floodplain management aimed at combining water safety and nature policies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1213-1221
Number of pages9
JournalRiver research and applications
Issue number7
Early online date25 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2020


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