Quantifying Sediment Deposition Volume in Vegetated Areas with UAV Data

S. Emtehani*, V.G. Jetten, C.J. van Westen, D.P. Shrestha

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
163 Downloads (Pure)


Floods are frequent hydro-meteorological hazards which cause losses in many parts of the world. In hilly and mountainous environments, floods often contain sediments which are derived from mass movements and soil erosion. The deposited sediments cause significant direct damage, and indirect costs of clean-up and sediment removal. The quantification of these sediment-related costs is still a major challenge and few multi-hazard risk studies take this into account. This research is an attempt to quantify sediment deposition caused by extreme weather events in tropical regions. The research was carried out on the heavily forested volcanic island of Dominica, which was impacted by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. The intense rainfall caused soil erosion, landslides, debris flows, and flash floods resulting in a massive amount of sediments being deposited in the river channels and alluvial fan, where most settlements are located. The overall damages and losses were approximately USD 1.3 billion, USD 92 million of which relates to the cost for removing sediments. The deposition height and extent were determined by calculating the difference in elevation using pre- and post-event Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) data and additional Light Detection and Raging (LiDAR) data. This provided deposition volumes of approximately 41 and 21 (103 m3) for the two study sites. For verification, the maximum flood level was simulated using trend interpolation of the flood margins and the Digital Terrain Model (DTM) was subtracted from it to obtain flooding depth, which indicates the maximum deposition height. The sediment deposition height was also measured in the field for a number of points for verification. The methods were applied in two sites and the results were compared. We investigated the strengths and weaknesses of direct sediment observations, and analyzed the uncertainty of sediment volume estimates by DTM/DSM differencing. The study concludes that the use of pre- and post-event UAV data in heavily vegetated tropical areas leads to a high level of uncertainty in the estimated volume of sediments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2391
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalRemote sensing
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2021


  • Debris flow
  • Flood
  • Extreme events
  • Sediment deposition
  • UAV
  • Natural hazards
  • Digital elevation models
  • Remote sensing


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