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Muster, S; Heim, B; Abnizova, A; Boike, J (2013). Water Body Distributions Across Scales: A Remote Sensing Based Comparison of Three Arctic Tundra Wetlands. REMOTE SENSING, 5(4), 1498-1523.

Water bodies are ubiquitous features in Arctic wetlands. Ponds, i.e., waters with a surface area smaller than 10(4) m(2), have been recognized as hotspots of biological activity and greenhouse gas emissions but are not well inventoried. This study aimed to identify common characteristics of three Arctic wetlands including water body size and abundance for different spatial resolutions, and the potential of Landsat-5 TM satellite data to show the subpixel fraction of water cover (SWC) via the surface albedo. Water bodies were mapped using optical and radar satellite data with resolutions of 4 m or better, Landsat-5 TM at 3 0 m and the MODIS water mask (MOD44W) at 2 5 0 m resolution. Study sites showed similar properties regarding water body distributions and scaling issues. Abundance-size distributions showed a curved pattern on a log-log scale with a flattened lower tail and an upper tail that appeared Paretian. Ponds represented 95% of the total water body number. Total number of water bodies decreased with coarser spatial resolutions. However, clusters of small water bodies were merged into single larger water bodies leading to local overestimation of water surface area. To assess the uncertainty of coarse-scale products, both surface water fraction and the water body size distribution should therefore be considered. Using Landsat surface albedo to estimate SWC across different terrain types including polygonal terrain and drained thermokarst basins proved to be a robust approach. However, the albedo-SWC relationship is site specific and needs to be tested in other Arctic regions. These findings present a baseline to better represent small water bodies of Arctic wet tundra environments in regional as well as global ecosystem and climate models.



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