A novel approach for detecting agricultural terraced landscapes from historical and contemporaneous photogrammetric aerial photos

Alessandra Capolupo, Lammert Kooistra, Lorenzo Boccia*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Terraces are the most distinctive sign of human activity on the shape of the Earth surface. Their construction has increased the soils permeability and reduced the slope gradient of mountains since those territories could be exploited both for agricultural and habitable purposes. Over the last decades, they have been the subject of a quick abandonment due to their scarce competitiveness. This has caused some environmental problems, such as soil degradation and hydrological instability. Minori in Italy is one of the most ancient municipalities in the Mediterranean area characterized by the presence of terraces. This paper intends to develop a method for automatic extraction of terraces from historical and contemporaneous aerial photos using an Object-based Image Analysis (OBIA) approach. Historic photos from 1956, acquired by the Geographical Military Institute (IGM), and a contemporaneous block of RGB and multispectral images, taken in 2017 of the study area have been processed to generate a high resolution Digital Elevation Model (DEM) and detailed orthophotos. Subsequently, the OBIA classification has been applied for producing a binary map of terraced and not terraced landscapes for both datasets. Orthophoto resolution was equal to 240 mm, 7 mm and 15 mm for the historical, RGB and multispectral pictures, respectively. DEM resolution results equal to 480 mm and 0.19 mm for the historical and RGB set of data. The R 2 between the check points and the estimated values, generated during the metric reconstructions of the two obtained DEMs, resulted equal to 0.99 for both datasets (1956 and 2017). The classification accuracy of the generated binary maps (terraced/not terraced landscapes) were equal to 93% and 98%, respectively. The developed approach looks promising for the historical and contemporaneous datasets. That outcome is essential because it allows to detect terraces position and to compare them over the years in order to analyse their evolution and geomorphological changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)800-810
JournalInternational Journal of applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • Historical series
  • Object-based Image Analysis (OBIA)
  • Photogrammetry
  • Terraces

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