Object-based gully system prediction from medium resolution imagery using Random Forests

R.B.V. Shruthi, N. Kerle, V.G. Jetten, A. Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


Erosion, in particular gully erosion, is a widespread problem. Its mapping is crucial for erosion monitoring and remediation of degraded areas. In addition, mapping of areas with high potential for future gully erosion can be used to assist prevention strategies. Good relations with topographic variables collected from the field are appropriate for determining areas susceptible to gullying. Image analysis of high resolution remotely sensed imagery (HRI) in combination with field verification has proven to be a good approach, although dependent on expensive imagery. Automatic and semi-automatic methods, such as object-oriented analysis (OOA), are rapid and reproducible. However, HRI data are not always available. We therefore attempted to identify gully systems using statistical modeling of image features from medium resolution imagery, here ASTER. These data were used for determining areas within gully system boundaries (GSB) using a semi-automatic method based on OOA. We assess if the selection of useful object features can be done in an objective and transferable way, using Random Forests (RF) for prediction of gully systems at regional scale, here in the Sehoul region, near Rabat, Morocco. Moderate success was achieved using a semi-automatic object-based RF model (out-of-bag error of 18.8%). Besides compensating for the imbalance between gully and non-gully classes, the procedure followed in this study enabled us to balance the classification error rates. The user's and producer's accuracy of the data with a balanced set of class showed an improved accuracy of the spatial estimates of gully systems, when compared to the data with imbalanced class. The model over-predicted the area within the GSB (13–27%), but its overall performance demonstrated that medium resolution satellite images contain sufficient information to identify gully systems, so that large areas can be mapped with relatively little effort and acceptable accuracy
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-294
Number of pages33
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2014


  • METIS-303436


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