Modeling Wetland Hydrology with LiDAR in Northwest Belize

Authors: Colin Doyle*, University of Texas - Austin, Timothy Beach, University of Texas at Austin, Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach, University of Texas at Austin
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Remote Sensing, Geomorphology
Keywords: wetlands, LiDAR, remote sensing, hydrology, geomorphology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Marshall North, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Wetland and floodplain formation are dependent on the hydrologic and geomorphic setting. Understanding tropical wetland hydrology can be very difficult, however, in remote areas that are still covered by dense forest. In the summer of 2016, we collected 300km2 of LiDAR in northwest Belize, much of which covers the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area (RBCMA). The LiDAR data has revealed a wetland floodplain deep in the RBCMA that was once ancient Maya intensive raised field agriculture. A groundwater-fed creek flows through this system into the main branch of the Rio Bravo, and is near saturated in sulfate. As a result, the soils have an extremely high gypsum concentration, rendering agriculture very difficult. This study presents preliminary results from excavations of the ancient fields and canals to understand the floodplain formation and chronology of human modifications. In addition, we use hydrologic models with the LiDAR data to simulate the seasonal flooding of this wetland and creek. The goals of this exercise are to begin to understand how this remote tropical wetland has formed in response to seasonal flooding and groundwater chemistry. Moreover, we can then begin to understand how the ancient canal and raised fields may could have addressed these challenges to provide productive agriculture.

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