Abstract

Gully erosion mapping is a crucial step to monitor the erosion process and to study its current and future local impacts. Gully erosion mapping through field-work is difficult, time-consuming, and costly. This article compares various pixel-based image classification (PBC) algorithms, such as ISODATA, Maximum Likelihood Classification, and Support Vector Machine, with the object-based image analysis (OBIA) technique for gully erosion mapping on IRS-P6 images. Six models defined by classification types, classifiers, and feature spaces were built for comparison. The results show that OBIA classification performed better than PBC in terms of accuracy. We also found that the improvement of OBIA was primarily due to employing textural and shape features and optimized feature space, while the use of standard feature space did not improve OBIA. In addition, OBIA significantly reduced the salt-and-pepper effect that obscures the features on the output maps compared to the PBC maps (which had more salt-and-pepper effects). It seems that object-based techniques have yielded better results because of their focus on the shape of gully networks rather than on their spectral heterogeneity. In order to improve the accuracy, a priority may be gained by fully exploring the use of membership function and hierarchical approach with multi-scale segmentation for gully mapping. In future studies we propose to determine how these factors can affect the performance of OBIA in terms of gully mapping. This study provides information on the location of gullies, gully dynamics over a period of time, and the degree of land degradation (gully density) for developing and implementing soil conservation measures.

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