RadWet: An Improved and Transferable Mapping of Open Water and Inundated Vegetation Using Sentinel-1

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Mapping the spatial and temporal dynamics of tropical herbaceous wetlands is vital for a wide range of applications. Inundated vegetation can account for over three-quarters of the total inundated area, yet widely used EO mapping approaches are limited to the detection of open water bodies. This paper presents a new wetland mapping approach, RadWet, that automatically defines open water and inundated vegetation training data using a novel mixture of radar, terrain, and optical imagery. Training data samples are then used to classify serial Sentinel-1 radar imagery using an ensemble machine learning classification routine, providing information on the spatial and temporal dynamics of inundation every 12 days at a resolution of 30 m. The approach was evaluated over the period 2017–2022, covering a range of conditions (dry season to wet season) for two sites: (1) the Barotseland Floodplain, Zambia (31,172 km2) and (2) the Upper Rupununi Wetlands in Guyana (11,745 km2). Good agreement was found at both sites using random stratified accuracy assessment data (n = 28,223) with a median overall accuracy of 89% in Barotseland and 80% in the Upper Rupununi, outperforming existing approaches. The results revealed fine-scale hydrological processes driving inundation patterns as well as temporal patterns in seasonal flood pulse timing and magnitude. Inundated vegetation dominated wet season wetland extent, accounting for a mean 80% of total inundation. RadWet offers a new way in which tropical wetlands can be routinely monitored and characterised. This can provide significant benefits for a range of application areas, including flood hazard management, wetland inventories, monitoring natural greenhouse gas emissions and disease vector control.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1705
Number of pages30
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2023


  • Barotseland
  • Guyana
  • herbaceous wetlands
  • inundated vegetation
  • machine learning
  • open water
  • Rupununi
  • Sentinel-1
  • wetlands
  • Zambia
  • Article


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