Through-water terrestrial laser scanning of gravel beds at the patch scale

Mark Smith, Damia Vericat, Chris Gibbins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


Acquiring high resolution topographic data of natural gravel surfaces is technically demanding in locations where the bed is not exposed at low water stages. Often the most geomorphologically active surfaces are permanently submerged. Gravel beds are spatially variable and measurement of their detailed structure and particle sizes is essential for understanding the interaction of bed roughness with near-bed flow hydraulics, sediment entrainment, transport and deposition processes, as well as providing insights into the ecological responses to these processes. This paper presents patch-scale laboratory and field experiments to demonstrate that through-water terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) has the potential to provide high resolution digital elevation models of submerged gravel beds with enough detail to depict individual grains and small-scale forms. The resulting point cloud data requires correction for refraction before registration. Preliminary validation shows that patch-scale TLS through 200¿mm of water introduces a mean error of less than 5¿mm under ideal conditions. Point precision is not adversely affected by the water column. The resulting DEMs can be embedded seamlessly within larger sub-aerial reach-scale surveys and can be acquired alongside flow measurements to examine the effects of three-dimensional surface geometry on turbulent flow fields and their interaction with instream ecology dynamics. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-421
Number of pages11
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number4
Early online date12 Dec 2011
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2012


  • terrestrial laser scanning
  • fluvial geomorphology
  • gravel surfaces
  • patch scale
  • roughness


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