A simple DEM assessment procedure for gully system analysis in the Lake Manyara area, northern Tanzania

Maerker, Michael; Quénéhervé, Geraldine; Bachofer, Felix; Mori, Simone


Gully erosion is a major threat concerning landscape degradation in large areas along the northern Tanzanian Rift valley. It is the dominant erosion process producing large parts of the sediments that are effectively conducted into the river network. The study area is located in the Lake Manyara—Makuyuni River catchment, Arusha, northern Tanzania. During fieldwork, we measured topographic data of eight gully systems close to Makuyuni Town. The main focus of this study is to assess gully erosion dynamics using improved DEMs with original resolutions of 30 and 20 m, respectively. We assessed terrain characteristics to extract information on environmental drivers. To improve the DEM, we integrated information deduced from satellite images as well as from acquired GPS field data. Topographic indices such as Stream Power Index or Transport Capacity Index were derived from the re-interpolated DEM. To evaluate gully evolution, we assessed also the longitudinal slope profiles. Finally, the gully evolution phases of each gully were classified according to the concept proposed by Kosov et al. (Eksperimental’naya geomorfologiya, vol 3. Moscow University, Moskva, pp 113–140, 1978). The re-interpolated DEMs revealed a positive response especially for the more developed gullies. We show that the extraction of information on this spatial process scale based on “low-resolution” data is feasible with little additional fieldwork and image interpretation. In fact, areas identified as having a greater risk of gully erosion have been confirmed by observations and surveys carried out in the field.