Comparison of gully erosion estimates using airborne and ground-based LiDAR on Santa Cruz Island, California

Ryan L. Perroy, Bodo Bookhagen, Gregory P. Asner, Oliver A. Chadwick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

186 Scopus citations


Gully erosion removes comparatively large volumes of soil from small areas. It is often difficult to quantify the loss of soil because the footprint of individual gullies is too small to be captured by most generally available digital elevation models (DEMs), such as the USGS National Elevation Dataset. Airborne LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) has the potential to provide the required data density, but an even newer class of ground-based sensors may provide better local resolution at lower cost. In this study, we compared digital elevation models produced by airborne and ground-based LiDAR systems with ground-based geomorphic and geodetic survey data to determine their utility in quantifying volumetric soil loss due to gully erosion in a heavily degraded watershed (7.55×10-2km2), on southwestern Santa Cruz Island in southern California. Volumetric estimates of the eroded sediment were produced by comparing the LiDAR-derived DEMs of the gully system to a modeled pre-erosion surface. Average point densities were significantly higher for the ground-based LiDAR system and provided more detailed information; however, its limited scanning footprint and side-looking orientation presented serious challenges in collecting continuous data from deeply incised gullies, making the airborne system preferable for this type of investigation and likely for most applications where heavy topographic shadowing is prevalent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)288-300
Number of pages13
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Erosion
  • Gully
  • LiDAR
  • Mediterranean climate
  • Volume estimates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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