Topography reconstruction of eroding landscapes – A case study from a hummocky ground moraine (CarboZALF-D)

W.M. van der Meij*, A.J.A.M. Temme, J. Wallinga, W. Hierold, M. Sommer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Erosion processes, aggravated by human activity, have a large impact on the spatial variation of soil and topographic properties. Knowledge of the topography prior to human-induced erosion (paleotopography) in naturally stable landscapes is valuable for identifying vulnerable landscape positions and is required as starting point for erosion modelling exercises. However, developing accurate reconstructions of paleotopography provide a major challenge for geomorphologists. Here, we present a set of paleotopographies for a closed kettle hole catchment in north-east Germany (4 ha), obtained through different reconstruction approaches. Current soil and colluvium thickness, estimated from a dataset of 264 soil descriptions using Ordinary Kriging, were used as input for a mass balance, or were compared with a set of undisturbed soil thicknesses to estimate the amount of erosion. The performance of the different approaches was assessed with cross-validation and the count of mispredicted eroded, depositional or stable landscape positions.

The paleotopographic reconstruction approach based on the average thickness of undisturbed soils in the study area showed the best performance. This thickness (1.00 m) is comparable to the average undisturbed soil thickness in the region and in line with global correlations of soil thickness as a function of rainfall and initial CaCO3 content. The performance of the different approaches depended more on mispredictions of landscape position due to the assumption of a spatially constant initial soil depth than on small variations in this depth. To conclude, we mention several methodological and practical points of attention for future topography reconstruction studies, concerning data quality and availability, spatial configuration of data and other processes affecting topography.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)758-772
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Erosion
  • Landscape change
  • Tillage
  • Topography reconstruction


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