13 Jul 2023
 | 13 Jul 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

High-resolution automated detection of headwater streambeds for large watersheds

Francis Lessard, Naïm Perreault, and Sylvain Jutras

Abstract. Streams are defined by the presence of a streambed, which is a linear depression where water flows between discernible banks. The upstream boundary of a stream is called a channel head. Headwater streams, which are small streams at the top of a watershed, account for the majority of the total length of streams, yet their exact locations are still not well known. For years, many algorithms were used to produce hydrographic networks that represent headwater streams with varying degrees of accuracy. Although digital elevation models derived from LiDAR have significantly improved headwater stream detection, the performance of the algorithms with different geomorphic characteristics remains unclear. Here, we address this issue by testing different combinations of algorithms using classification trees. Homogeneous hydrological processes were identified through hydrological classification. The results showed that in shallow soil that mainly consists of till deposits, the algorithms that recreate the surface runoff process provide the best explanation for the presence of a streambed. In contrast, streambeds in thick soil with high infiltration rates were primarily explained by a small-scale incision algorithm. Furthermore, the use of an iterative process that recreates water diffusion made it possible to more accurately detect streambeds than other methods tested, regardless of the hydrological classification. The method developed in this paper shows the importance of considering hydrological processes when aiming to identify headwater streams.

Francis Lessard et al.

Status: open (until 13 Oct 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1521', Anonymous Referee #1, 28 Jul 2023 reply
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Francis Lessard, 02 Aug 2023 reply

Francis Lessard et al.

Francis Lessard et al.


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Short summary
Headwaters streams, which are small streams at the top of a watershed, represent two-thirds of the total length of streams, yet their exact locations are still unknown. This article compare different techniques in order to detect remotely the position of these streams. Thus, a database of more than 464 km of headwaters was used to explain what drive their presence. A technique developed in this article makes it possible to detect with more accuracy headwater streams, despite the land uses.