, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 745–756 | Cite as

Wetlands of the Lowland Amazon Basin: Extent, Vegetative Cover, and Dual-season Inundated Area as Mapped with JERS-1 Synthetic Aperture Radar

  • Laura L. HessEmail author
  • John M. Melack
  • Adriana G. Affonso
  • Claudio Barbosa
  • Mary Gastil-Buhl
  • Evlyn M. L. M. Novo
Original Research


Wetland extent, vegetation cover, and inundation state were mapped for the first time at moderately high (100 m) resolution for the entire lowland Amazon basin, using mosaics of Japanese Earth Resources Satellite (JERS-1) imagery acquired during low- and high-water seasons in 1995–1996. A wetlands mask was created by segmentation of the mosaics and clustering of the resulting polygons; a rules set was then applied to classify wetland areas into five land cover classes and two flooding classes using dual-season backscattering values. The mapped wetland area of 8.4 × 105 km2 is equivalent to 14 % of the total basin area (5.83 × 106 km2) and 17 % of the lowland basin (5.06 × 106 km2). During high-water season, open water surfaces accounted for 9 % of the wetland area, woody vegetation 77 %, and aquatic macrophytes 14 %. Producer’s accuracy as assessed using high-resolution digital videography was better than 85 % for wetland extent. The mapped flooding extent is representative of average high- and low-flood conditions for latitudes north of 6° S; flooding conditions were less well captured for the southern part of the basin. Global data sets derived from lower-resolution optical sensors capture less than 25 % of the wetland area mapped here.


Tropical wetlands Amazon River Floodplain inundation Radar remote sensing JERS-1 Global Rain Forest Mapping Project 



JERS-1 imagery used in this analysis was provided by Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) as part of its Global Rain Forest Mapping (GRFM) Project, and JERS-1 mosaics were provided by B. Chapman at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. We gratefully acknowledge C. Prigent and F. Papa for making global inundation data sets available. This work was funded by NASA under LBA-ECO investigations LC-07 and LC-32, and NNX10AB66G. D. Alsdorf provided helpful comments on an earlier version of the paper.


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Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura L. Hess
    • 1
    Email author
  • John M. Melack
    • 1
  • Adriana G. Affonso
    • 2
  • Claudio Barbosa
    • 2
  • Mary Gastil-Buhl
    • 3
  • Evlyn M. L. M. Novo
    • 2
  1. 1.Earth Research InstituteUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  2. 2.Remote Sensing DivisionNational Institute for Space Research (INPE)São José dos CamposBrazil
  3. 3.Marine Science InstituteUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

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