The Role of Environmental Water and Reedbed Condition on the Response of Phragmites australis Reedbeds to Flooding

William Higgisson, Adrian Cobb, Alica Tschierschke, Fiona Dyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
156 Downloads (Pure)


Globally, wetlands have experienced significant declines in area and condition. Reedbeds are a key attribute of many wetlands and are typically composed of Phragmites australis (common reed), a globally distributed emergent aquatic perennial grass. Environmental water is increasingly used to support functioning river and floodplain ecosystems, including reedbeds, where maintaining wetland vegetation condition is a common objective. Drone-based remote sensing allows for the consistent collection of high-quality data in locations such as wetlands where access is limited. We used unoccupied aerial vehicles (UAVs) and convolutional neural networks (CNNs) to estimate the cover of Phragmites australis and examine the role of reedbed condition and prior environmental watering in the response of reedbeds to flooding. Data were collected from a large inland reedbed in semi-arid western New South Wales, Australia between October 2019 and March 2021 using UAVs and processed using CNNs. Prior to the flood event, sites that had received environmental water had a significantly greater cover of Phragmites australis. The sites that were not managed with environmental water had very low cover (<1%) of reeds prior to the flood event and transitioned from a Critical condition to a Poor or Medium condition following flooding. Using UAVs and CNNs we demonstrated the role environmental water plays in filling the gaps between large flood events and maintaining the condition and resilience of reedbeds.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1868
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


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