Mapping Sabkha Land Surfaces in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) using Landsat 8 Data, Principal Component Analysis and Soil Salinity Information

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Abdelgadir Abuelgasim 1 Rubab Ammad 2

1. Department of Geography and Urban Planning, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, United Arab Emirates University, Al-Ain, Abu Dhabi 15551, UAE

2. Department of Biology, College of Science, United Arab Emirates University, Al-Ain, Abu Dhabi 15551, UAE

* Corresponding author.


Received: 17 Mar. 2017 / Revised: 29 Apr. 2017 / Accepted: 6 Jun. 2017 / Published: 8 Jul. 2017

Index Terms

Sabkha, Landsat 8, UAE


Sabkha is an Arabic word for a salt-flat area found mainly along arid area coastlines and inlands within sand dunes areas. The sabkha that form within the sand are relatively flat and very saline areas of sand or silt that forms just above the water-table where the sand is cemented together by evaporite salts from seasonal ponds. Such shallow water is normally highly saline. Here the crust is rich in gypsum and halite veins where the underline thin layer is made of sand and silt. Such sabkha have an average thickness of a meter or slightly less. On the other hand, marine sabkha represent transitional environments between the land and the sea. The UAE is home to some of the largest concentrations of sabkha both coastal and inland. The coastal areas of Abu Dhabi include several small shoals, islands, protected lagoons, channels and deltas, an inner zone of intertidal flats with algal mats and broad areas of supratidal sabkha salt flats.
Identifying sabkha habitats from remotely sensed data is a challenging process. Traditional classification techniques of multispectral data alone, usually fail to properly identify sabkha pixels or provide lower rates of mapping accuracy for sabkha habitats. The primary objective of this research is to develop a much more accurate methodology for properly mapping and identifying sabkha areas from remotely sensed data. Properly mapping sabkha habitats from remotely sensed data is the first steps towards studying the ecological changes within such habitats using earth observation techniques. Furthermore, sabkha habitats can in certain situations be a geotechnical hazard due to its highly salinity and with adverse effects on concrete, asphalt, steel and other structures, in addition to their sporadic heaves and collapses. As the UAE continue to build major infrastructure and development projects identifying the location of such habitats is vitally important.
In this research a new technique that combines the multispectral information of Landsat 8, principal component analysis and spectral soil salinity detection is developed. The study area is located in the western part of the UAE along the border with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, an area known to include large tracks of inland and coastal sabkha. Landsat 8 data from path 161 and row 43 was acquired for the study. A multi-source classification approach was followed that utilizes the multispectral data of Landsat 8 along with components from the principal components analysis and the spectral salinity index maps. The preliminary results confirmed by field observations show that the combined data improved the classification accuracy to almost 90% in comparison to multispectral data alone of 78%.

Cite This Paper

Abdelgadir Abuelgasim, Rubab Ammad,"Mapping Sabkha Land Surfaces in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) using Landsat 8 Data, Principal Component Analysis and Soil Salinity Information", International Journal of Engineering and Manufacturing(IJEM), Vol.7, No.4, pp.1-11, 2017. DOI: 10.5815/ijem.2017.04.01


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