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Special Issue of the Journal of Coastal Research Highlights Lidar Applications in Coastal Settings and Features USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Studies

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Special Issue 53 of the Journal of Coastal Research, released in November 2009, is dedicated to applications of airborne lidar (light detection and ranging) in coastal studies. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) expertise is featured throughout the supplemental volume. John C. Brock (USGS, St. Petersburg, Florida) and Samuel J. Purkis (National Coral Reef Institute, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale-Davie, Florida) were co-editors. Their overview, "The Emerging Role of Lidar Remote Sensing in Coastal Research and Resource Management," discusses the critical role of coastal-elevation measurements in scientific research and resource management.

The collection of articles explores the capabilities and emerging roles for lidar technology—the use of laser light for mapping coastal land and adjacent shallow seafloor—as researchers expand its potential. Not only do the articles highlight various coastal applications and settings, but they also illustrate important partnerships in which scientists are working with resource managers to further develop this emerging technology. Of the 10 papers, 4 were authored by USGS scientists in the Coastal and Marine Geology Program in St. Petersburg, Florida: Dave Zawada, Hilary Stockdon, Kara Doran, Abby Sallenger, Monica Palaseanu-Lovejoy, Amar Nayegandhi, and Wayne Wright. Other USGS authors include Brock, Dean Gesch, Jason Stoker, Phil Turnipseed, K. Van Wilson, and Michael Oimoen. Partners include the National Park Service (NPS); the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); the National Coral Reef Institute, Nova Southeastern University; and the University of the Virgin Islands. Examples of lidar applications include characterizing coral-reef topography in Florida, coastal vulnerability to extreme storms in New York, and vegetation types in coastal Louisiana.

Coral reefs are some of the most irregular substrates in the marine environment, with little known about the range of topographic complexity exhibited within reefs. Zawada and Brock used lidar-derived bathymetric data to quantify the topographic complexity, or roughness, of part of the northern Florida Keys reef tract. The technology helped them quantify the topographic complexity of a 25-km2 area to 1-m spatial resolution.

The morphology and elevation of coastal sand dunes play an important role in determining how beaches will respond to hurricanes and extreme storms. Stockdon, Doran, and Sallenger measured dune-crest elevations by using lidar applications to map the vulnerability of Fire Island National Seashore in New York to inundation during hurricanes. By comparing lidar-derived dune elevations with modeled wave setup and storm-surge height for a category 3 hurricane, scientists were able to forecast that water levels would exceed dune elevations along 70 percent of the coastal park—information that is valuable for coastal managers.

USGS spatial analyst Palaseanu-Lovejoy, computer scientist Nayegandhi, and physical scientist Wright, along with Brock and Robert Woodsman (NPS), shared their work evaluating lidar technology as a method for distinguishing the spatial distribution of vegetation types in Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Louisiana. Remote-sensing tools that can map and distinguish vegetation types have extensive applications for land-management practices.

To view the special issue's table of contents, including links to abstracts and articles, visit

Related Web Sites
Journal of Coastal Research
scientific journal
Decision Support for Coastal Science and Management
Vulnerability of National Park Service Beaches to Inundation During a Direct Hurricane Landfall
EAARL Topography–Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve 2006

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Journal of Coastal Research Highlights Lidar Applications in Coastal Settings

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