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High-resolution assessment of riverbank erosion and stabilization techniques with associated water quality implications

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-26, 07:40 authored by E. Hayes, S. Higgins, D. Mullan, J. Geris

Agriculture is a key contributor to poor water quality, but the sources of sediment and nutrient losses from agricultural catchments – including from riverbank erosion – are highly variable. Riverbank erosion is particularly difficult to quantify and control. Here, we developed a quick assessment approach to quantify riverbank erosion rates and associated sediment and nutrient loading rates into waterways using airborne LiDAR combined with field-collected data. We applied this approach and explored its relationships to water quality at four sites within the Blackwater catchment in Northern Ireland for two analysis periods. GIS LiDAR image differencing revealed that volume changes in riverbank elevation equated to average erosion rates which indicated spatial and temporal variability in erosion rates. Combining the erosion rates with in-situ riverbank bulk density and total extractable phosphorus content provided sediment and phosphorus loading rates. The relative differences between estimated erosion at the different sites corresponded well with in-stream suspended sediment variations, but patterns for total phosphorus concentrations were more complex. We conclude that the use of LiDAR combined with field data is an innovative means for riverbank erosion quantification. Furthermore, by using LiDAR-to-LiDAR analyses, the reductions in erosion, sediment, and phosphorus loading rates following riverbank stabilization techniques can be determined.


This research was funded by the NERC QUADRAT DTP [grant number 2280708]. The riverbank stabilization work at Site 3 was funded by the CatchmentCARE project (project reference IVA5058—www.catchmentcare.eu). The CatchmentCARE project is supported by the European Union's INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). The views and opinions expressed in this document do not necessarily reflect those of the European Commission or the SEUPB.