Articles | Volume 15, issue 5
Research article
06 May 2011
Research article |  | 06 May 2011

An objective approach for feature extraction: distribution analysis and statistical descriptors for scale choice and channel network identification

G. Sofia, P. Tarolli, F. Cazorzi, and G. Dalla Fontana

Abstract. A statistical approach to LiDAR derived topographic attributes for the automatic extraction of channel network and for the choice of the scale to apply for parameter evaluation is presented in this paper. The basis of this approach is to use distribution analysis and statistical descriptors to identify channels where terrain geometry denotes significant convergences. Two case study areas with different morphology and degree of organization are used with their 1 m LiDAR Digital Terrain Models (DTMs). Topographic attribute maps (curvature and openness) for various window sizes are derived from the DTMs in order to detect surface convergences. A statistical analysis on value distributions considering each window size is carried out for the choice of the optimum kernel. We propose a three-step method to extract the network based (a) on the normalization and overlapping of openness and minimum curvature to highlight the more likely surface convergences, (b) a weighting of the upslope area according to these normalized maps to identify drainage flow paths and flow accumulation consistent with terrain geometry, (c) the standard score normalization of the weighted upslope area and the use of standard score values as non subjective threshold for channel network identification. As a final step for optimal definition and representation of the whole network, a noise-filtering and connection procedure is applied. The advantage of the proposed methodology, and the efficiency and accurate localization of extracted features are demonstrated using LiDAR data of two different areas and comparing both extractions with field surveyed networks.