Developing mapping and modeling approaches as a part of flood risk management business (GIFLOOD)

Floods are economically and socially the most significant natural catastrophes in industrial countries. In Europe, approximately 700 million people lost their lives and half a million had to be evacuated from their homes due to over hundred massive floods between 1998-2008. According to Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, there are 21 significant flood risk areas, of which four are located in Finland's coast and 17 at inland waters.

The amount of flood-based damages has varied yearly. For example, the overall costs of flood damages in Finland in the 1990s were c.a. 3 million Euros, whereas in the year 2005 they were 17 million Euros. In 2005, over 70 % of the costs were caused by extraordinarily high rise in sea level.

Devastating floods in Europe caused the EU to develop its preventive measures and flood management practices and in 2007 the Flood Directive came in effect. It obligates the member states to map potential high risk flooding areas and quantify the flood risks. Implementation of the directive has created a business of hundreds of millions of Euros practiced by environmental and mapping companies. The Work comprises mapping of flood hazard areas, river habitat modeling and making plans for flood management.

The aim of GIFLOOD research project has been to create more business possibilities in the field of flood risk management, river dynamics and water construction on river habitats in Finland and abroad. New work methods were developed in five subprojects to be utilized by environmental and water companies. The project was completed as co-operation of several research organizations, companies and public sector actors. The guiding lines of the project were the Flood Directive and the obligations of environmental planning of water construction.

Five subprojects:

  1. Developing of topographical/bathymetric model for hydraulic modeling based on new laser scanning methods
  2. Improvement of hydraulic and habitat modeling
  3. Improvement of the habitat modeling by better starting material
  4. Creation of GIS-based service for flood mapping and risk analyzing according to Flood Directive
  5. Developing of the alarm system software

The role of SYKE in the research project focused on applying the new precise and seamless topographic data as source material in formulating habitat models for salmon. Availability of precise topographic data is essential for high standard modeling. The new methods are not only more precise, but valuable in making the collecting of basic data quick and easily repetitive.

The Results

With the aim of habitat modeling, the habitat requirements of the studied organism can be compared with the physical measurements and thus asses the quality and range of suitable living environment for the organism. Habitat models can be used in assessing habitat quality, change detection and restoration planning.

Hydraulic habitat modeling for salmon juvenile life stages performed for the River Utsjoki with a seamless topographical dataset.

The most common parameters used in these assessments are water depth, water velocity and substrate size. Basically, the models may be formulated for any organism if the data on its suitable habitat is comprehensive. In practice, the models are usually formulated for the key species, which, according to today's knowledge, represent the ecological state of the area. The habitat models of salmonids (salmon, trout) are the most used ones due the vast habitat preference studies.

Remote-controlled helicopter of Finnish Geodetic Institute filming riverbanks of Utsjoki. The similar helicopter can be hooked together with a laser scanner.

In GIFLOOD research project, different accurate topographic datasets were combined and thus it was possible to create a seamless map of the study area from the river bed to the highest flood contour on riverbanks. With this data the possible effects of future floods may be modeled much precisely than before. It will also be valuable in modeling the adaptation of species to floods and changes in local hydrology brought by climate change. Precise topographic measurements of riverbanks and on shorelines are important for the accuracy of habitat models balanced in different stream conditions.   

Mobile laser scanned (MLS) point clouds from the River Pulmankijoki by Finnish Geodetic Institute.


With a remote-controlled ADCP boat (University of Turku), the velocities and directions can be measured in places where inflatable boat can't reach.

Further information

Head of  Unit Timo Huttula, Finnish Environment Institute,

Published 2013-04-25 at 14:14, updated 2013-05-07 at 15:41