The use of LiDAR to predict the occurrence of forested wetland and riparian habitats in New Brunswick

Final Report: The use of LiDAR to predict the occurrence of forested wetland and riparian habitats in New Brunswick

Goals and Objectives

Up until recently, wetland habitats have been defined by using the provincial wetland and forest inventories. These inventories are generated through photo interpretation of aerial photos at 1:12,500 scale. It is recognized that forested wetlands are not consistently classified when relying on the aerial photo interpretation approach described above.

Beginning in 2013, NBDNR has changed its approach on how forest inventory information will be collected and is moving toward an aerial LiDAR-based remote sensing collection of data. In efforts to support existing conservation objectives in the future, it is essential to evaluate the feasibility of using LiDAR data to model the distribution and quantity estimates of priority forested wetland and riparian habitats.

This project will focus on the use of aerial LiDAR to predict the occurrence of forested wetland and riparian habitats that contribute to the population objectives for priority cavity nesting waterfowl of the NBEHJV IP. The results of scientific investigation into the habitat needs of various wildlife species form the core building blocks of NBDNRs habitat associations and definitions. A related project will focus on the evaluation of the strength of these habitat associations.

Research question(s):

  1. Can LiDAR data refine predictions of wet forest habitats (floodplain, treed bog, and cedar swamp habitats) in NB?
  2. Is it feasible to map forested wetland and riparian habitats (focusing on forest birds) using existing stand structural definitions and existing LiDAR outputs or alternatively other available LiDAR point cloud data?

Specific Habitat Products/Results Supported by WHC’s Contributions

The WHC contribution will be used to hire a LiDAR analyst for a 6 month period to document the process used for analyzing and assessing the use of LiDAR for the proposed research questions.

Benefits to Waterfowl, Wetland-Associated Species, and/or Other Wildlife

The NBEHJV implementation plan includes the securement of wetland habitats for priority waterfowl species. Two such priority species are the Common goldeneye, and Wood duck. Both species require tree cavities in or near wetlands and riparian zones during the nesting season and are the rationale for the nest box conservation program under the EHJV IP. The identification and mapping of suitable habitats for cavity nesting waterfowl is a key to effective securement of these priority habitats.

Relevance to Habitat Planning, Decision Making and/or Management

The project report will include an assessment of the strength of prediction capacity of existing aerial LiDAR metrics and the raw point cloud data in identifying each of the wetland habitats mentioned earlier. The assessment will include confidence limits for each prediction made from the modelling exercise for each habitat type and allow the province to determine what approach provides current and future requirements that could be integrated into a provincial remote sensing wetland inventory/habitat monitoring program.

If feasible, the LiDAR derived data can be used to support the existing NBDNR management framework for Crown Lands in NB, the wetland policy, conservation planning and securement activities by partners under the NBEHJV, and inform the provincial EA process conducted by the NB Department of Environment and Local Government ultimately through habitat suitability models derived from current and future LiDAR data.

Project Location

  1. Province: New Brunswick
  2. Municipality / county / town / city: Fredericton, Saint John
  3. Landscape type: Saint John River watershed- floodplain, cedar swamps, treed bogs, riparian zones
  4. Area (acres) of wetlands in research area: 82,080 ha
  5. Area (acres) of uplands in research area: 1,400,000 ha
  6. Other relevant information about the location: The Saint John River watershed is the largest in NB and includes the largest floodplain complex in Atlantic Canada. This area is recognized as a major stop over for migratory game birds during spring and fall migration as well as providing important habitats for cavity nesting waterfowl in NB.  

Project Contact

For more information on this project, please contact Steve Gordon, Manager Habitat Section, Fish and Wildlife Branch, Fredericton, NB.