The value of remote sensing and surface geophysical data for characterizing the spatial variability and relationships between land-surface and subsurface properties was explored in an Alaska (USA) coastal plain ecosystem. At this site, a nested suite of measurements was collected within a region where the land surface was dominated by polygons, including: LiDAR data; ground-penetrating radar, electromagnetic, and electrical-resistance tomography data; active-layer depth, soil temperature, soil-moisture content, soil texture, soil carbon and nitrogen content; and pore-fluid cations. LiDAR data were used to extract geomorphic metrics, which potentially indicate drainage potential. Geophysical data were used to characterize active-layer depth, soil-moisture content, and permafrost variability. Cluster analysis of the LiDAR and geophysical attributes revealed the presence of three spatial zones, which had unique distributions of geomorphic, hydrological, thermal, and geochemical properties. The correspondence between the LiDAR-based geomorphic zonation and the geophysics-based active-layer and permafrost zonation highlights the significant linkage between these ecosystem compartments. This study suggests the potential of combining LiDAR and surface geophysical measurements for providing high-resolution information about land-surface and subsurface properties as well as their spatial variations and linkages, all of which are important for quantifying terrestrial-ecosystem evolution and feedbacks to climate.


Hubbard, S.S., C. Gangodagamage, B. Dafflon, H. Wainwright, J. Peterson, A. Gusmeroli, C. Ulrich, Y. Wu, C. Wilson, J. Rowland, C. Tweedie, and S. D. Wullschleger. 2012. Quantifying and relating land-surface and subsurface variability in permafrost environments using LiDAR and surface geophysical datasets. Hydrogeology Journal. 21: 149-169.