Mapping rill soil erosion in agricultural fields with UAV-borne remote sensing data

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftForschungsartikelBeigetragenBegutachtung



Soil erosion by water is a main form of land degradation worldwide. The problem has been addressed, among others, in the United Nations Sustainability Goals. However, for mitigation of erosion consequences and adequate management of affected areas, reliable information on the magnitude and spatial patterns of erosion is needed. Although such need is often addressed by erosion modelling, precise erosion monitoring is necessary for the calibration and validation of erosion models and to study erosion patterns in landscapes. Conventional methods for quantification of rill erosion are based on labour-intensive field measurements. In contrast, remote sensing techniques promise fast, non-invasive, systematic and larger-scale surveying. Thus, the main objective of this study was to develop and evaluate automated and transferable methodologies for mapping the spatial extent of erosion rills from a single acquisition of remote sensing data. Data collected by an uncrewed aerial vehicle was used to deliver a highly detailed digital elevation model (DEM) of the analysed area. Rills were classified by two methods with different settings. One approach was based on a series of decision rules applied on DEM-derived geomorphological terrain attributes. The second approach utilized the random forest machine learning algorithm. The methods were tested on three agricultural fields representing different erosion patterns and vegetation covers. Our study showed that the proposed methods can ensure recognition of rills with accuracies between 80 and 90% depending on rill characteristics. In some cases, however, the methods were sensitive to very small rill incisions and to similar geometry of rills to other features. Additionally, their performance was influenced by the vegetation structure and cover. Besides these challenges, the introduced approach was capable of mapping rills fully automatically at the field scale and can, therefore, support a fast and flexible assessment of erosion magnitudes.


Seiten (von - bis)596-612
FachzeitschriftEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - Jan. 2023

Externe IDs

Scopus 85142180886
Mendeley 60e5c7c9-9f5b-30ec-8bb5-2e13d2bdd006


Ziele für nachhaltige Entwicklung


  • DEM, OBIA, UAV, UAV-borne photogrammetry, drone, erosion rill, geomorphology, machine learning, random forest, soil erosion, terrain attributes