Lidar quantification of bank erosion in Blue Earth County, Minnesota

A. C. Kessler, S. C. Gupta, H. A.S. Dolliver, D. P. Thoma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Sediment and phosphorus (P) transport from the Minnesota River Basin to Lake Pepin on the upper Mississippi River has garnered much attention in recent years. However, there is lack of data on the extent of sediment and P contributions from riverbanks visà-vis uplands and ravines. Using two light detection and ranging (lidar) data sets taken in 2005 and 2009, a study was undertaken to quantify sediment and associated P losses from riverbanks in Blue Earth County, Minnesota. Volume change in river valleys as a result of bank erosion amounted to 1.71 million m3 over 4yr. Volume change closely followed the trend: the Blue Earth River > the Minnesota River at the county's northern edge > the Le Sueur River > the Maple River > the Watonwan River > the Big Cobb River > Perch Creek > Little Cobb River. Using fine sediment content (silt + clay) and bulk density of 37 bank samples representing three parent materials, we estimate bank erosion contributions of 48 to 79% of the measured total suspended solids at the mouth of the Blue Earth and the Le Sueur rivers. Corresponding soluble P and total P contributions ranged from 0.13 to 0.20% and 40 to 49%, respectively. Although tall banks (>3 m high) accounted for 33% of the total length and 63% of the total area, they accounted for 75% of the volume change in river valleys. We conclude that multitemporal lidar data sets are useful in estimating bank erosion and associated P contributions over large scales, and for riverbanks that are not readily accessible for conventional surveying equipment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-207
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


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