AIMS Geosciences, 2017, 3(3): 352-374. doi: 10.3934/geosci.2017.3.352

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Investigating the Surface and Subsurface in Karstic Regions – Terrestrial Laser Scanning versus Low-Altitude Airborne Imaging and the Combination with Geophysical Prospecting

Institute of Geography, University of Cologne, Germany

Combining measurements of the surface and subsurface is a promising approach to understand the origin and current changes of karstic forms since subterraneous processes are often the initial driving force. A karst depression in south-west Germany was investigated in a comprehensive campaign with remote sensing and geophysical prospecting. This contribution has two objectives: firstly, comparing terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) and low-altitude airborne imaging from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) regarding their performance in capturing the surface. Secondly, establishing a suitable way of combining this 3D surface data with data from the subsurface, derived by geophysical prospecting. Both remote sensing approaches performed satisfying and the established digital elevation models (DEMs) differ only slightly. These minor discrepancies result essentially from the different viewing geometries and post-processing concepts, for example whether the vegetation was removed or not. Validation analyses against high-accurate DGPS-derived point data sets revealed slightly better results for the DEMTLS with a mean absolute difference of 0.03 m to 0.05 m and a standard deviation of 0.03 m to 0.07 m (DEMUAV: mean absolute difference: 0.11 m to 0.13 m; standard deviation: 0.09 m to 0.11 m). The 3D surface data and 2D image of the vertical cross section through the subsurface along a geophysical profile were combined in block diagrams. The data sets fit very well and give a first impression of the connection between surface and subsurface structures. Since capturing the subsurface with this method is limited to 2D and the data acquisition is quite time consuming, further investigations are necessary for reliable statements about subterraneous structures, how these may induce surface changes, and the origin of this karst depression. Moreover, geophysical prospecting can only produce a suspected image of the subsurface since the apparent resistivity is measured. Thus, further measurements, such as borehole drillings or ground-penetrating radar are necessary for a closer analysis of the subsurface. In summary, satisfying results were achieved, which however pave the way for further studies.
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