loading page

Problems with the shoreline development index - a widely used metric of lake shape
  • David A. Seekell,
  • B. B. Cael,
  • Pär Byström
David A. Seekell
Umeå University, Umeå University, Umeå University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
B. B. Cael
National Oceanography Centre, National Oceanography Centre, National Oceanography Centre
Author Profile
Pär Byström
Umeå University, Umeå University, Umeå University
Author Profile


The shoreline development index – the ratio of a lake’s shore length to the circumference of a circle with the lake’s area – is a core metric of lake morphometry used in Earth and planetary sciences. In this paper, we demonstrate that the shoreline development index is scale-dependent and cannot be used to compare lakes with different areas. We show that large lakes will have higher shoreline development index measurements than smaller lakes of the same characteristic shape, even when mapped at the same scale. Specifically, the shoreline development index increases by about 14% for each doubling of lake area. These results call into question previously reported patterns of lake shape. We provide several suggestions to improve the application of this index, including a bias-corrected formulation for comparing lakes with different surface areas.
28 May 2022Published in Geophysical Research Letters volume 49 issue 10. 10.1029/2022GL098499