US Long-Term Ecological Research Network


Littoral Characterization:

  • Locate the riparian sampling site. Littoral zone transects are parallel to the riparian zone survey sites. Place flags at 10m intervals to create 5 segments. Segments are labeled from left to right- A, B, C, D, and E. 
  • Count the number of docks on the shoreline AND at the 0.5 m depth contour for each 10 m segment. Count only those docks which actually touch the shore or cross the transect. A “dock” is defined to be 1 m wide (=10% of segment). L-shaped or extra wide docks should be counted as 2or more docks – ONLY if the extra wide or “L” portion ACTUALLY CROSSES THE TRANSECT.
  • Characterize the vegetation at the ordinary high watermark and back 0.5 m (so that this data will be different from the “general site info” data). Assess the percentage of the segment (A, B, C, D or E) covered by Forested, Overhanging Trees, Overhanging Shrubs, Shrub Thicket, Shrubs, Wetlands, Herbaceous, Lawn, Engineered, Beach or Dock. These values should total 100%.
  • Count number of overhanging trees in each segment (Count only trees whose trunks are inclined at 45° or more and/or have a large portion of their canopy hanging over the water). Score each tree for branchiness and degree of overhang (45- 65° = 0; 65- 90° = 1)
  • Characterize Substrate at both the shoreline and the 0.5 m depth contour for each 10 m segment: Sand, pebble, Rock, Organic debris (muck) or silt. Score for presence/absence and mark which one is dominant. For 0.5 m depth contour, grab a handful of substrate and classify it 2-3 times per 10m segment
  • Measure distance from shore to the 0.5 m depth contour at the beginning and end of the transect
Littoral CWD:
  • Measure diameter of CWD encountered along the inside edge of the half-meter depth contour at the point where the log crosses the contour line (but orthogonal to the log itself). Do not measure logs that are completely submerged under the substrate.
  • Tally all logs greater than or equal to 5 cm but less than 10 cm diameter and greater than 150 cm in length by 10 m segment (record no further measurements on these logs).
  • For logs greater than 10 cm diameter (at the point where they cross the transect) and longer than 150 cm, determine total length, decay class, elevation, orientation, amount of branching,10 m segment (A,B, C, D, E) where first encountered and the number of other 10cm logs that cross the subject log between 0 and 1 m depth (see illustrations below). If a log has a branch that is greater than 10 cm in diameter and longer than 150 cm AND it crosses the transect, count it as a log, measuring the length from the point of attachment to the main log to the tip of the branch. Put a check mark in the “notes” column if you encounter any logs like this.
Elevation (taken at the point of intersection with the .5m contour)
0: logs which are partially submerged or resting on the bottom
1: logs slightly elevated from the bottom (up to about a palm-width off the bottom)
2: more elevated than 1, but not floating
3: floating on the surface of the lake or elevated above the surface of the water at the .5 m transect but submerged at the waterline.
Orientation: parallel, Perpendicular, Oblique
0- 30° and 150- 180° = parallel; 30- 60° and 120– 150° = oblique and 60-120° = perpendicular
0: no branches,
1: few branches
2: moderate number of branches
3: many branches (full crown)
1: recently downed,
2: algal growth but bark still sound,
3: bark sloughing off but wood still sound,
4: wood soft,
5: wood very soft no longer structurally sound
NOTE: paper birch retains its bark long after the wood has rotted, score logs of this species by the softness of the wood, not the bark
Number of Intersections:

Biocomplexity Littoral Sampling Intersections Diagram


Other Notes
If the substrate is too soft to support the weight of the investigator, snorkel along the transect. As a last resort, row the boat along your best estimate of the half-meter contour. Have one person hang off the front of the boat and feel for CWD on the bottom. If you have to row or snorkel a transect, record this information on the data sheet.
Water Lily (Nuphar and Nymphaea) rhizomes are not considered CWD
(revision date 5/28/2002)


LTER Keywords
Protocol Format
Protocol ID
Protocol Type