Mapping Water Levels across a Region of the Cuvette Centrale Peatland Complex

Selena Georgiou, Edward T. A. Mitchard, Bart Crezee, Greta C. Dargie, Dylan M. Young, Antonio J. Jovani-Sancho, Benjamin Kitambo, Fabrice Papa, Yannick E. Bocko, Pierre Bola, Dafydd E. Crabtree, Ovide B. Emba, Corneille E. N. Ewango, Nicholas T. Girkin, Suspense A. Ifo, Joseph T. Kanyama, Yeto Emmanuel Wenina Mampouya, Mackline Mbemba, Jean-bosco N. Ndjango, Paul. I. PalmerSofie Sjögersten, Simon L. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Inundation dynamics are the primary control on greenhouse gas emissions from peatlands. Situated in the central Congo Basin, the Cuvette Centrale is the largest tropical peatland complex. However, our knowledge of the spatial and temporal variations in its water levels is limited. By addressing this gap, we can quantify the relationship between the Cuvette Centrale’s water levels and greenhouse gas emissions, and further provide a baseline from which deviations caused by climate or land-use change can be observed, and their impacts understood. We present here a novel approach that combines satellite-derived rainfall, evapotranspiration and L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data to estimate spatial and temporal changes in water level across a sub-region of the Cuvette Centrale. Our key outputs are a map showing the spatial distribution of rainfed and flood-prone locations and a daily, 100 m resolution map of peatland water levels. This map is validated using satellite altimetry data and in situ water table data from water loggers. We determine that 50% of peatlands within our study area are largely rainfed, and a further 22.5% are somewhat rainfed, receiving hydrological input mostly from rainfall (directly and via surface/sub-surface inputs in sloped areas). The remaining 27.5% of peatlands are mainly situated in riverine floodplain areas to the east of the Congo River and between the Ubangui and Congo rivers. The mean amplitude of the water level across our study area and over a 20-month period is 22.8 ± 10.1 cm to 1 standard deviation. Maximum temporal variations in water levels occur in the riverine floodplain areas and in the inter-fluvial region between the Ubangui and Congo rivers. Our results show that spatial and temporal changes in water levels can be successfully mapped over tropical peatlands using the pattern of net water input (rainfall minus evapotranspiration, not accounting for run-off) and L-band SAR data.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3099
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2023


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