, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 1–13 | Cite as

Hydrologic Dynamics of the Ground-Water-Dependent Sian Ka’an Wetlands, Mexico, Derived from InSAR and SAR Data

  • Bibi R. N. Gondwe
  • Sang-Hoon Hong
  • Shimon Wdowinski
  • Peter Bauer-Gottwein
Original Paper


The 5,280 km2 Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve includes pristine wetlands fed by ground water from the karst aquifer of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. The inflow through underground karst structures is hard to observe making it difficult to understand, quantify, and predict the wetland dynamics. Remotely sensed Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) amplitude and phase observations offer new opportunities to obtain information on hydrologic dynamics useful for wetland management. Backscatter amplitude of SAR data can be used to map flooding extent. Interferometric processing of the backscattered SAR phase data (InSAR) produces temporal phase-changes that can be related to relative water level changes in vegetated wetlands. We used 56 RADARSAT-1 SAR acquisitions to calculate 38 interferograms and 13 flooding maps with 24 day and 48 day time intervals covering July 2006 to March 2008. Flooding extent varied between 1,067 km2 and 2,588 km2 during the study period, and main water input was seen to take place in sloughs during October–December. We propose that main water input areas are associated with water-filled faults that transport ground water from the catchment to the wetlands. InSAR and Landsat data revealed local-scale water divides and surface water flow directions within the wetlands.


Hydrology Remote sensing Surface water Synthetic aperture radar interferometry Yucatan Peninsula 



RADARSAT data (Canadian Space Agency 2006, 2007, 2008) was distributed by the Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing, University of Miami, under Master License of RADARSAT International Inc. We thank CONANP staff for reading of gauge heights, Amigos de Sian Ka’an for logistical field help and Comisión Nacional del Agua for climate station data. Financial support was provided by WWF Verdensnaturfonden/Aase & Ejnar Danielsens Fond 2006 and 2007, Otto Mønsted’s foundation, the COWIfoundation and NASA Cooperative Agreement No. NNX08BA43A (WaterSCAPES: Science of Coupled Aquatic Processes in Ecosystems from Space). Comments from anonymous reviewers and the Editor greatly improved this manuscript. This is CSTARS contribution #24.


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Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bibi R. N. Gondwe
    • 1
  • Sang-Hoon Hong
    • 2
  • Shimon Wdowinski
    • 2
  • Peter Bauer-Gottwein
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental EngineeringTechnical University of DenmarkKgs. LyngbyDenmark
  2. 2.Division of Marine Geology and GeophysicsUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA

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