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Wetland Elevations at Sub-Centimeter Precision: Exploring the Use of Digital Barcode Leveling for Elevation Monitoring

Cain, MollyR., Hensel, PhilippeF.
Estuaries and coasts 2018 v.41 no.2 pp. 582-591
barcoding, monitoring, sea level, wetland soils, wetlands
Scientists investigating wetland soil vertical development have required a high precision, high accuracy technique to measure wetland surface elevation change over time. The Surface Elevation Table (SET), capable of millimeter-scale precision, has proven effective in supporting hypothesis-based inquiry into mechanisms of wetland vertical development. More recently, SET sampling stations have been established in many areas to monitor wetland elevation change in an effort to gauge wetland resilience to accelerated sea level rise. Unfortunately, each SET sampling station covers an area of about 1 m², and the technique was not designed to monitor elevations across broad, hectare-sized spatial scales. The purpose of this study is to investigate an alternative method for obtaining repeated, high-precision measurements of wetland elevation and elevation change that could easily be extended to the hectare scale. This study compares the precision and accuracy of a novel digital barcode leveling technique to the now well-accepted SET for the purposes of measuring wetland surface elevation change. Results suggest that leveling can provide wetland elevations with similar vertical precision as the SET over much larger spatial scales and with an instrument that costs about the same as the SET.