Comparison of flow direction algorithms in the application of the cti for mapping wetlands in minnesota

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26 Scopus citations


Topography has been traditionally used as a surrogate to model spatial patterns of water distribution and variation of hydrological conditions. In this study, we investigated the use of light detection and ranging (lidar) data to derive two Single Flow Direction (SFD) and fiveMultiple Flow Direction (MFD) algorithms in the application of the compound topographic index (CTI) for mapping wetlands. The CTI is defined here as ln [(a)/(tan (β)], where a represents the local upslope contributing area and β represents the local slope gradient. We evaluated the following flow direction algorithms: D8, Rho8, DEMON, D-8 MD-8, Mass Flux, and FD8 in three ecoregions in Minnesota. Numerous studies have found that MFD algorithms better represent the spatial distribution of water compared to SFD algorithms. CTI maps were compared to field collected and image interpreted reference data using traditional remote sensing accuracy estimators. Overall accuracy results for the majority of CTI based algorithms were in the range of 81-92 %, with low errors of wetland omission. The results of this study provide evidence that 1) wetlands can be accurately identified using a lidar derived CTI, and 2) MFD algorithms should be preferred over SFD algorithms in most cases for mapping wetlands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-525
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust (ENRTF), the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR), and the United States Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS: Award 30181AJ194).


  • Compound topographic index
  • Flow direction algorithm
  • Lidar
  • Wetlandmapping


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