Object-based Landslide Mapping: Examples, Challenges and Opportunities

Daniel Hölbling*, Clemens Eisank, Barbara Friedl, Kang-Tsung Chang, Tsai-Tsung Tsai, Gro B. M. Pedersen, Harley Betts, Francesca Cigna, Shou-Hao Chiang, Benjamin Aubrey Robson, Silvia Bianchini, Petra Füreder, Florian Albrecht, Raphael Spiekermann, Elisabeth Weinke, Thomas Blaschke, Chris Phillips

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in Book


Over the last decade, object-based image analysis (OBIA) has been increasingly used for mapping landslides that occur after triggering events such as heavy rainfall. The increasing availability and quality of Earth Observation (EO) data in terms of temporal, spatial and spectral resolution allows for comprehensive mapping of landslides at multiple scales. Most often very high resolution (VHR) or high resolution (HR) optical satellite images are used in combination with a digital elevation model (DEM) and its products such as slope and curvature. Semi-automated object-based mapping makes use of various characteristics of image objects that are derived through segmentation. OBIA enables numerous spectral, spatial, contextual and textural image object properties to be applied during an analysis. This is especially useful when mapping complex natural features such as landslides and constitutes an advantage over pixel-based image analysis. However, several drawbacks in the process of object-based landslide mapping have not been overcome yet. The developed classification routines are often rather complex and limited regarding their transferability across areas and sensors. There is still more research needed to further improve present approaches and to fully exploit the capabilities of OBIA for landslide mapping. In this study several examples of object-based landslide mapping from various geographical regions with different characteristics are presented. Examples from the Austrian and Italian Alps are shown, whereby one challenge lies in the detection of small-scale landslides on steep slopes while preventing the classification of false positives with similar spectral properties (construction areas, utilized land, etc.). Further examples feature landslides mapped in Iceland, where the differentiation of landslides from other landscape-altering processes in a highly dynamic volcanic landscape poses a very distinct challenge, and in Norway, which is exposed to multiple types of landslides. Unlike in these northern European countries, landslides in Taiwan can be effectively delineated based on spectral differences as the surrounding is most often densely vegetated. In this tropical/subtropical region the fast information provision after Typhoon events is important. This need can be addressed in OBIA by automatically calculating thresholds based on vegetation indices and using them for a first rough identification of areas affected by landslides. Moreover, the differentiation in landslide source and transportation area is of high relevance in Taiwan. Finally, an example from New Zealand, where landslide inventory mapping is important for estimating surface erosion, will demonstrate the performance of OBIA compared to visual expert interpretation and on-screen mapping. The associated challenges and opportunities related to case studies in each of these regions are discussed and reviewed. In doing so, open research issues in object-based landslide mapping based on EO data are identified and highlighted.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGeophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 18, EGU General Assembly 2016-520
Place of PublicationVienna, Austria
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Fields of Science and Technology Classification 2012

  • 105 Geosciences
  • 207 Environmental Engineering, Applied Geosciences

Cite this

Hölbling, D., Eisank, C., Friedl, B., Chang, K-T., Tsai, T-T., Pedersen, G. B. M., ... Phillips, C. (2016). Object-based Landslide Mapping: Examples, Challenges and Opportunities. In Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 18, EGU General Assembly 2016-520 Vienna, Austria.