Using topographical attributes to evaluate gully erosion proneness (susceptibility) in two mediterranean basins: advantages and limitations

Christian Conoscenti, Edoardo Rotigliano, Álvaro Gómez-Gutiérrez, Álvaro Gómez-Gutiérrez, Susanne Schnabel, Silvia Eleonora Angileri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


Empirical multivariate predictive models represent an important tool to estimate gully erosion susceptibility. Topography, lithology, climate, land use and vegetation cover are commonly used as input for these approaches. In this paper, two multivariate predictive models were generated for two gully erosion processes in San Giorgio basin (Italy) and Mula River basin (Spain) using only topographical attributes as independent variables. Initially, nine models (five for San Giorgio and four for Mula) with pixel sizes ranging from 2 to 50 m were generated, and validation statistics were calculated to estimate the optimal pixel size. The best models were selected based on model performance using the area under the receiver operating characteristic (AUC) curve and the generalized cross-validation. The best pixel size was 4 m in the San Giorgio basin and 20 m in the Mula basin. The finest resolution was not necessarily the best; rather, the relationship between digital elevation model resolution and size of the landform was important. The two selected models showed an excellent performance with AUC values of 0.859 and 0.826 for San Giorgio and Mula, respectively. The Topographic Wetness Index and the general curvature were identified as key topographical attributes in San Giorgio and Mula basins, respectively. Both attributes were related to the processes observed in the field and described in the literature. Finally, maps of gully erosion susceptibility were produced for each basin. These maps showed that 22 and 20 % of San Giorgio and Mula basins, respectively, present favourable conditions for the development of gullies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-314
Number of pages24
JournalNatural Hazards
Publication statusPublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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