Chinese Geographical Science

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 415–430 | Cite as

An object-based approach for two-level gully feature mapping using high-resolution DEM and imagery: a case study on hilly loess plateau region, China

  • Kai Liu
  • Hu Ding
  • Guoan TangEmail author
  • A-Xing Zhu
  • Xin Yang
  • Sheng Jiang
  • Jianjun Cao


Gully feature mapping is an indispensable prerequisite for the motioning and control of gully erosion which is a widespread natural hazard. The increasing availability of high-resolution Digital Elevation Model (DEM) and remote sensing imagery, combined with developed object-based methods enables automatic gully feature mapping. But still few studies have specifically focused on gully feature mapping on different scales. In this study, an object-based approach to two-level gully feature mapping, including gully-affected areas and bank gullies, was developed and tested on 1-m DEM and Worldview-3 imagery of a catchment in the Chinese Loess Plateau. The methodology includes a sequence of data preparation, image segmentation, metric calculation, and random forest based classification. The results of the two-level mapping were based on a random forest model after investigating the effects of feature selection and class-imbalance problem. Results show that the segmentation strategy adopted in this paper which considers the topographic information and optimal parameter combination can improve the segmentation results. The distribution of the gully-affected area is closely related to topographic information, however, the spectral features are more dominant for bank gully mapping. The highest overall accuracy of the gully-affected area mapping was 93.06% with four topographic features. The highest overall accuracy of bank gully mapping is 78.5% when all features are adopted. The proposed approach is a creditable option for hierarchical mapping of gully feature information, which is suitable for the application in hily Loess Plateau region.


object-based image analysis gully feature hierarchical mapping gully erosion Digital Elevation Model (DEM) 


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We thank Dr. WANG Lei from Northwest University for assisting in obtaining the high resolution DEM. Special thanks are also given to NA Jiaming and LIU Yiwen for their helpful comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Northeast Institute of Geography and Agricultural Ecology, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kai Liu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hu Ding
    • 1
    • 2
  • Guoan Tang
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • A-Xing Zhu
    • 3
    • 4
  • Xin Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sheng Jiang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jianjun Cao
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Virtual Geographic Environment (Nanjing Normal University), Ministry of EducationNanjingChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory Cultivation Base of Geographical Environment Evolution (Jiangsu Province)NanjingChina
  3. 3.Jiangsu Center for Collaborative Innovation in Geographical Information Resource Development and ApplicationNanjingChina
  4. 4.Department of GeographyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  5. 5.School of Environmental ScienceNanjing Xiaozhuang UniversityNanjingChina

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