Date of Award

Winter 12-21-2020

Semester of Degree


Document Type

Restricted Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D. in Environmental Resources Engineering


Environmental Resources Engineering

Major Professor

Lindi Quackenbush

Steering Committee Member

Stephen Stehman

Steering Committee Member

Stephen Shaw


Riparian zones provide important transitions between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and they are closely linked to river channel geomorphology. However, vegetation within riparian zones has long been modified by humans and an important consequence of riparian vegetation alteration is increased channel migration. The first three manuscripts of this dissertation focus on development and application of processes for delineating and detecting riparian vegetation and channel boundaries, including quantifying accuracy of each component. The first manuscript focused on developing a novel method to detect and delineate spatio-temporal changes in river channel boundaries and riparian vegetation extent and coverage using freely available imagery and geospatial applications. Results from applying the method demonstrated channel boundary variation impacts on riparian vegetation delineation and quantified land use impact on riparian vegetation extent and fraction. The method developed allows stakeholders to process remotely sensed imagery with reduced costs in processing and data storage. The second manuscript focused on development of a new framework to holistically quantify riparian vegetation delineation by considering accuracy in channel boundary delineation and vegetation classification, which enabled identification of factors that influence accuracy of each element. The accuracy framework developed in this study enables the holistic quantification of riparian vegetation delineation accuracy for both channel boundary delineation and vegetation classification. The third manuscript focused on detecting and monitoring spatio-temporal patterns of tree growth in planted riparian buffers. The study results quantified spatial and temporal impacts on buffer tree cover delineation accuracy and detectability. Broad application of the utilized process can help reveal critical difference in buffer tree cover trends to inform local riparian buffer management practices. The fourth manuscript in this dissertation aimed to address a critical knowledge gap in channel migration studies by exploring differences in channel migration rate across rivers in the northeastern and western US. This study revealed substantial differences in drivers of changes between the two representative rivers and highlights the need for localized characterization of processes to support riparian management efforts. Through using remote sensing and geospatial analysis techniques, this dissertation provides a foundation to address the lack of quantitative knowledge in both riparian vegetation and channel migration.