Geomorphology 39 Ž2001. 211–219 www.elsevier.


Remote sensing and GIS-based regional geomorphological mapping—a tool for land use planning in developing countries
G. Bocco a,) , M. Mendoza a , A. Velazquez b ´

Instituto de Ecologıa, UniÕersidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, AP 27-3, 58089 Xangari, Michoacan, Mexico ´ ´ ´ ´ b Instituto de Geografıa, UniÕersidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico ´ ´ ´ Received 9 September 1999; received in revised form 11 December 2000; accepted 20 December 2000

Abstract Land use planning and necessary supporting data are crucial to developing countries that are usually under severe environmental and demographic strains. Approaches and methods to map the variability of natural resources are important tools to properly guide spatial planning. In this paper, we describe a method to quickly map terrain at reconnaissance Ž1:250,000. and semi-detailed Ž1:50,000. levels. This method can be utilized as a basis for further land evaluation and land use planning in large territories. The approach was tested in the state of Michoacan, central-western Mexico, currently undergoing rapid deforestation and subsequent land degradation. Results at the reconnaissance level describe the geographic distribution of major landforms and dominant land cover, and provide a synoptic inventory of natural resources. Results at the semi-detailed level indicate how to nest individual landforms to major units and how they can be used to run procedures for land evaluation. If combined with appropriate socioeconomic data, governmental guidelines for land use planning can be formulated on the basis of reconnaissance and semi-detailed terrain analysis. q 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Geomorphological mapping; Land use planning; Remote sensing; GIS; Mexico

1. Introduction Land use planning results from a reasonable compromise between the environmental potential Žmeasured in terms of the availability of natural resources. and the social demand Žmeasured in terms of the requirements of goods and services by specific human communities.. Land use planning and necessary supporting data are crucial to developing coun) Corresponding author. Tel.: q 52-43-244537; fax: q 52-43244537. E-mail address: ŽG. Bocco..

tries that are usually under severe environmental and demographic strains Žsee, e.g. Food and Agriculture Organization, 1995.. Third World countries have difficulty in meeting the high costs of controlling natural hazards through major engineering works and rational land use planning ŽGuzzetti et al., 1999.. In Mexico, for instance, a substantial amount of the population lives in poverty conditions, especially in rural communities. This has important environmental implications because 80% of the remaining Mexican forested areas Žtemperate and tropical. are managed by indigenous people in rural communities ŽThoms and Betters, 1998.. Usually, however, data

0169-555Xr01r$ - see front matter q 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. PII: S 0 1 6 9 - 5 5 5 X Ž 0 1 . 0 0 0 2 7 - 7


G. Bocco et al.r Geomorphology 39 (2001) 211–219

on natural resources are either incomplete or non-updated ŽBrodnig and Mayer, 2000.. In Mexico and in many Latin American countries, basic geographic data Žtopographic and thematic. exist at different scales Žsee, e.g. Lugo and Cordova, 1996.. Monitor´ ing and analysis of natural resources at coarse scales, however, is often lacking. Feasible methods to map variability of natural resources and natural hazards, and to assess land capabilities Žsee Christian, 1957; Mabbut and Stewart, 1963; Wright, 1972; Cooke and Doornkamp, 1974; Steiner et al., 1994; Panizza, 1996; Rivas et al., 1997; Pasuto and Soldati, 1999. are important tools to properly guide spatial planning and may be very useful in developing countries. Geomorphological mapping still holds as a valuable research tool Žsee the case of fluvial geomorphology, for instance, in Castiglioni et al., 1999.. For applied purposes, however, a rather pragmatic approach is recommendable, especially when surveys encompass large areas and results must be available quickly. In this paper, we describe a method to quickly map terrain in relatively large territories Žthousands of square kilometers. and show how it can be used as a basis for further land evaluation and land use planning in the event that relevant resource data are either scarce, non-updated, or unavailable. This is the case in many developing countries, most located in inter-tropical regions under fragile environmental conditions.

Fig. 1. Location map of study area.

pressions, and Temperate Highlands ŽCommission for Environmental Cooperation, 1997..

3. The approach: landform and landscape classification This approach uses landform mapping, at different resolutions, as the major entry to landscape classification. In this sense, we partially followed the land system and terrain analysis mapping schemes developed in the 1950s and 1960s, especially in Europe and Australia Žfor a review, see Verstappen, 1983; van Zuidam and van Zuidam, 1985.. Inventories of natural resources were completed relatively quickly using those frameworks. Major technological advances, primarily during the last two decades, involve the following. Ži. The use of digital remote sensing and geographic information systems ŽGIS. techniques in resource surveying Že.g. Lopez-Blanco and Villers, ´ 1995; Pickup and Chewings, 1996; Garcıa-Melendez ´ ´ et al., 1998; Novak and Soulakellis, 2000.. An opportunity now exists to gain fresh insights into biophysical systems through the spatial, temporal, spectral, and radiometric resolutions of remote sensing

2. The study area We tested the approach in the state of Michoacan, Mexico ŽFig. 1. Žca. 60,000 km2 and 4 million inhabitants.. The region has undergone severe land use change: deforestation rates are the highest in the country, per capita income is half the national average, and indigenous groups living in marginal conditions impact resource use. Climates in the region vary from tropical dry at the coast, to temperate and semiarid inland, depending on elevation. Altitudes range from sea level to ca. 3900 m asl. Major physiographic units include Quaternary Volcanic Temperate Sierras, Geologically Complex Temperate and Tropical Sierras, Fluvio-Tectonic Tropical De-

G. Bocco et al.r Geomorphology 39 (2001) 211–219


systems and through the analytical and data integration capability of GIS ŽWalsh et al., 1998.. Žii. Developments in digital elevation modeling at different resolutions and operational in personal computers ŽDaymond et al., 1995; Giles and Franklin, 1998.. This technique allows full data extraction from topographic maps, and the automation of slope gradient and aspect calculations and display, including the pseudo three-dimensional views. Žiii. The development of automated frameworks for land evaluation Že.g. Rossiter, 1990; Food and Agriculture Organization, 1995.. Land capability assessments were eased by automating analyses of soil properties and the relationship between land form and land quality. All the above-mentioned advances were considered in this research. In addition, geomorphologic mapping for the exercise followed a slightly different approach. Landforms are discrete units that can readily be defined and verified at different scales by proven techniques. Vegetation and soils tend to vary predictably within a landform unit and are affected by altitude and slope aspect and gradient. Relationships between landforms and soil, vegetation and land use Žthe latter embodied here as land cover. can be described using different analytical techniques Žsuch as map overlaying. in automated databases of a GIS. In other words, landforms are acceptable integrated classifiers of the landscape, and can be used to divide it into discrete segments. Another relevant issue in this approach is the use of a hierarchic classification of landforms, from which nested legends can be derived at different scales ŽZinck, 1988.. We formulated a legend and mapped the entire state at 1:250,000 Žreconnaissance level. and zoomed in on one area at 1:50,000 to show how nesting could be accomplished Žat a semi-detailed level.. For each scale, we focused on different geomorphic and landscape criteria. We aimed at developing mapping schemes that could, in the future, be used by land use planners and conservationists. Throughout the entire analysis, we extensively used Ži. interpretation of topographic maps and digital terrain models for relief; Žii. interpretation of lithologic maps for bedrock, Žiii. interpretation of aerial photographs and Landsat imagery for both landforms and land cover, Živ. selective field verifi-

cation, and Žvi. automated data management and analysis in a GIS. We applied map-overlaying techniques coupled to statistical analyses to describe the quantitative relationships between landscape components: landforms, soils and vegetation. For this exercise, we used the Integrated Land and Watershed Management Information System ŽILWIS, 2000., a powerful, albeit user-friendly PC-based GIS with vector Žincluding aerial photograph rectification., raster and relational capabilities, and modeling tools such as terrain modeling, geostatistics, map calculation and Boolean algebra. For the cartographic output, we used Arc View Žversion 3.2..

4. Method and materials The region that was mapped ŽFig. 1. is cartographically represented in five 1:250,000 base maps, each constituted by 24 1:50,000 maps. All maps were produced and edited by INEGI, the Mexican national mapping agency. For the regional analysis, we interpreted the topographic expression of relief and lithology, respectively, on the topographic and rock type maps at 1:50,000 for the entire state and expressed results on 1:250,000 topographic maps. At this scale, we basically used morphometry Žrelief amplitude and slope gradient, derived from digital terrain models. and morpholithology as discriminating criteria. We specifically excluded morphogenesis at this coarse approximation; rather, we emphasized a more physiognomic approach that eased mapping, despite using quantitative criteria. The idea behind this could be described as Ayou map what you seeB; we thought that the scheme could be comprehensive and useful to other specialists involved in planning. A goal was to be clear and descriptive without losing geomorphic quality.

Table 1 Major landforms with prominent relief expression Unit name Very low hills Low hills High hills Sierras Relief amplitude Žm. - 250 250–500 500–1000 1000–4000 Slope steepness 3–88 6–208 20–458 ) 308 Dominant lithology volcanic volcanic various various


G. Bocco et al.r Geomorphology 39 (2001) 211–219

Table 2 Major landforms without prominent relief expression Unit name Valleys Plains Plateaus Piedmonts Relief amplitude Žm. -100 -100 -100 100–500 Slope steepness - 38 - 38 -68 -108 Dominant lithology alluvial alluvial volcanic alluvio-colluvial

The entire area was divided into two broad groups of major landforms, with and without important relief expression. For the first group, we differentiated four geomorphic regions: very low hills, low hills, high hills, and sierras. The second group was formed by four other regions: valleys, plains, highplains, and piedmonts. The thresholds for discriminating criteria Žrelief amplitude and slope steepness. are given in Tables 1 and 2, respectively, for both groups of landforms; in this way, the method can be replicated in similar environmental conditions. Dominant vegetation and land use Žland cover. was visually interpreted from improved color compositions of Landsat images, geometrically correct and printed at 1:250,000 scale by INEGI. Mapping

categories were tropical dry forest, temperate forest, shrubs–grasslands, crops, and human-induced features. Spectral criteria depicted on the imagery were coupled to ancillary data layers: altitude and slope characteristics from the DEM, climate, rock type and relief. The resulting information was manually digitized to GIS databases where cartographic overlaying operations provided quantitative relationships between landforms and land cover. Field verification consisted of transects following roads that intersected major environmental units. At this scale, we basically verified land cover and ambiguous geomorphic contacts. For the semi-detailed analysis, we focused on a volcanic area near Morelia, the capital city of Michoacan. We interpreted 1:50,000 and 1:80,000 panchromatic black-and-white, up-to-date aerial photography for landform and land cover delineation Žvan Zuidam and van Zuidam, 1985.. Within each regional unit, landforms were discriminated primarily according to morphogenesis. Because of scale constraints of the regional mapping, same landform units may be located within more than one regional unit ŽTable 3.. Vegetation delineation differentiated some of the categories defined above.

Table 3 Geomorphic regions and landforms, characterized by lithology and dominant soil and land cover Geomorphic region ŽA. Plains ŽB. Piedmonts Landform Ž1. Alluvial plain with vertisols and crops Ž2. Mesa on basic lava with feozems and crops Ž1. Alluvial plain with vertisols and crops Ž3. Scoria cones with andisols, crops, and shrubs Ž4. Concave upper footslopes on basic volcanic rocks with a pyroclastic cover, luvisols, crops, and grasslands Ž5. Convex upper footslopes on basic volcanic rocks without a pyroclastic cover, luvisols, grasslands, and oak forest Ž6. Lower footslopes on volcanic colluvium with clayey soils and crops Ž7. Basaltic lava flows with leptosols and andisols, shrubs, and crops Ž1. Alluvial plain with vertisols and crops Ž2. Mesa on basic lava with feozems and crops Ž7. Basaltic lava flows with litosols and andisols, shrubs, and crops Ž8. Gentle slopes on basic volcanic rocks, with andisols, crops and shrubs Ž9. Undifferentiated footslopes, on basic rocks with acrisols and crops Ž9. Undifferentiated footslopes on basic rocks with acrisols and crops Ž10. Steep slopes on basic rocks with andisols, and pines, oaks, and mixed forests Ž8. Gentle slopes on basic volcanic rocks with andisols, crops, and shrubs Ž10. Steep slopes on basic rocks with andisols, and pines, oaks, and mixed forests Ž11. Summit surface on basic volcanic rocks, with andisols and crops

ŽC. Very low hills

ŽD. Low hills ŽE. High hills

Notice that the same landform may be recognized in more than one region.

G. Bocco et al.r Geomorphology 39 (2001) 211–219


Fig. 2. Major geomorphic regions.

216 G. Bocco et al.r Geomorphology 39 (2001) 211–219

Fig. 3. Semi-detailed analysis of landforms, dominant soils and land cover. See description of mapping in Table 3.

G. Bocco et al.r Geomorphology 39 (2001) 211–219


Interpretations were manually digitized directly from photographs and geometrically corrected using the monorestitution capability of the GIS ŽMcCullough and Moore, 1995.. This method allows the rectification of aerial photographs through ground control points and digital elevation data. Soil information was digitized from INEGI maps at 1:50,000. We verified landforms and cover interpretations in the field along a transect from plain to high hills. The accuracy of the database was inspected following Bocco and Riemann Ž1997.. This method tests the efficiency during labeling of digitized polygons and allows for error correction.

5. Results and discussion The results of the mapping are presented in a generalized manner ŽFigs. 2 and 3.. Quantitative data are summarized in Table 4. Results at the reconnaissance level quantitatively describe the geographic distribution of major landforms and dominant land cover. This shows a synoptic inventory of forest resources that can guide planning efforts at the state level. In the case of Michoacan, comparison of land cover to landforms indicates that severe deforestation is occurring in steep terrain Žhills and sierras. that should be devoted to forest because of its unsuitability for other uses ŽBocco et al., 1998.. Areas of inappropriate or potentially conflictive land use are thus easily detected at this coarse scale and permit
Table 4 Quantitative distribution of major landforms and dominant cover Geomorphic region Valleys Plains Plateaus Piedmonts Very low hills Low hills High hills Sierras Percentage of total area 5.3 7.5 1.0 8.0 17.9 15.0 16.6 27.1 Dominant cover crops, dry forest crops dry and temperate forests crops crops, dry forest dry forest, crops dry and temperate forests, grass–shrubs dry and temperate forests, grass–shrubs

The difference to 100% is occupied by water and man-made features. Dominant cover represents more than 60% of unit areas.

the narrowing-down of future research and policy concern. At the semi-detailed level, the results of nesting individual landforms were discriminated using morphogenetic criteria grouped into major units ŽTable 3.. The approach at 1:50,000 can be used to run land evaluation procedures ŽRossiter, 1990; Steiner et al., 1994. whose results can be further combined with appropriate socioeconomic data to formulate guidelines for land use planning. In Mexico, 1:50,000 is a suitable scale for environmental planning of most municipalities. This mapping effort is currently used by the Ministry of the Environment to assess the change of land cover at a regional scale ŽBocco et al., 1998.. The statistics obtained indicate severe trends of deforestation in temperate Ž1% annual rate. and dry forests Ž2% annual rate., as well as a strong increase of the areas under shrubs and grasses following cattle grazing in scarcely populated areas. In turn, deforested areas for cattle are abandoned and other non-productive uses may prevail. In many remote areas, illegal crops Žsuch as cannabis. are found. Because land cover data can be easily updated in the automated GIS created, sequential analysis of the change in cover is feasible. Landforms remain, however, as the basic analytical spatial unit. The entire survey took 12 personrmonths. Because the investigation was carried out in an academic institution, costs of human resources were minimized, and hands-on training of assistants was achieved. The total cost, including maps, images, scholarships and fieldwork, was around US$0.50rkm2 . The method avoids the use of specialized terminology as much as possible without becoming vague. This insures the use of data by non-geomorphologists, such as social scientists, involved in planning. In Mexico, regional ecological mapping, based on geomorphology, is used by the National Institute of Ecology ŽMinistry of the Environment. for land use planning at the national and local scales. In Michoacan, the regional geomorphologic mapping described in this paper is the basis for further mapping and planning efforts by the local planning authority in the Cuitzeo basin, the second largest lake in Mexico. This basin is severely degraded; off-site effects of soil erosion are dramatic on the water body.


G. Bocco et al.r Geomorphology 39 (2001) 211–219 information technologies in the integration of traditional environmental knowledge and western science. Electron. J. Inf. Syst. Dev. Countries, 1, http:rrwww.unimas.myrfitrrogerr EJISDCrEJISDC.htm. Castiglioni, G., Biancotti, A., Bondesan, M., Cortemiglia, G., Elmi, C., Favero, V., Gasperi, G., Marchetti, G., Orombelli, G., Pellegrini, G., Tellini, C., 1999. Geomorphological map of the Po Plain, Italy, at a scale of 1:250 000. Earth Surf. Processes Landforms 24 Ž12., 1115–1120. Christian, C.S., 1957. The concept of land units and land systems. Proc. Pac. Sci. Congr., 9th 20, 74–81. Commission for Environmental Cooperation ŽCEC., 1997. Ecological Regions of North America: Towards a Common Perspective. CEC Press, Montreal, Canada. Cooke, R.U., Doornkamp, J.C., 1974. Geomorphology in Environmental Management: An Introduction. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, UK. Daymond, J.R., DeRose, R.C., Harmsworth, G.R., 1995. Automated mapping of land components from digital elevation data. Earth Surf. Processes Landforms 20, 131–137. Food and Agriculture Organization ŽFAO., 1995. Planning for Sustainable Use of Land Resources: Towards a New Approach. Land and Water Development Division, Rome. Garcıa-Melendez, E., Molina, I., Ferre-Julia, M., Aguirre, J., ´ ´ ` 1998. Multisensor data integration and GIS analysis for natural hazard mapping in a semiarid area ŽSoutheast Spain.. Adv. Space Res. 21 Ž3., 493–499. Giles, T., Franklin, S.E., 1998. An automated approach to the classification of the slope units using digital data. Geomorphology 21 Ž3–4., 251–264. Gobin, A., Campling, P., Deckers, J., Feyen, J., 2000. Integrated toposequence analyses to combine local and scientific knowledge systems. Geoderma 97, 103–123. Gupta, A., Ahmad, R., 1999. Geomorphology and the urban tropics: building an interface between research and usage. Geomorphology 31 Ž1–4., 133–149. Guzzetti, F., Carrara, A., Cardinali, M., Reichenbach, P., 1999. Landslide hazard evaluation: a review of current techniques and their application in a multi-scale study, Central Italy. Geomorphology 31 Ž1–4., 181–216. ILWIS, 2000. User’s Guide. ITC, Enschede, The Netherlands. Lopez-Blanco, J., Villers, L., 1995. Delineating boundaries of ´ environmental units for land management using a geomorphological approach and GIS: a study in Baja California, Mexico. Remote Sens. Environ. 53, 109–117. Ludwig, D., Hilborn, R., Walters, C., 1993. Uncertainty, resource exploitation and conservation: lessons from history. Science 260 Ž17., 36. Lugo, J., Cordova, C., 1996. The geomorphological map of ´ Mexico at scale 1:4,000,000. Z. Geomorphol., Suppl. 103, 313–322. Mabbut, J.A., Stewart, G.A., 1963. The application of geomorphology in resource surveys. Rev. Geomorphol. Dyn. 14, 97–109. McCullough, D., Moore, K., 1995. Issues and methodologies in integrating aerial photography and digital base maps. Geogr. Inf. Syst. 5 Ž3., 46–48.

6. Conclusions In the 21st century, scientists will be judged on how well they generate new knowledge, and also for how well they help solve local and global problems. Scientists in every nation must take action to ensure that policy makers and the public make their decisions based on the best available information ŽAlberts, 2000.. The approach and results discussed in this paper are in line with the idea of geomorphologists influencing societal decision-making ŽGupta and Ahmad, 1999.. This also holds for other scientific communities that are concerned with the outreach of scientific results at large ŽLudwig et al., 1993.. Especially in Third World countries searching for sustainable development strategies, the gap between science and policy can be bridged through multidisciplinary efforts. Two possible linked paths are Ži. matching the knowledge base to user needs and transforming input to decision making into publishable research ŽSnow, 1998.; and Žii. strengthening capabilities in rural communities for resource management through participatory research approaches ŽGobin et al., 2000.. Acknowledgements We thank Lorenzo Vazquez, Alan Woods and ´ Glenn Griffith for critically reading an early version of the paper. Mauro Soldatti and Mario Panizza kindly reviewed the manuscript. Two anonymous referees critically contributed to improving the final version of this paper. Research on which the article is based was funded by CONACYT ŽSIMORELOS Programme 1996: Land Use Change in Michoacan.. References
Alberts, B., 2000. Science must help set the global agenda. Mag. HMS Beagle, 84, http:rrnews.bmn.comrhmsbeagler84r viewptsrop – ed. Bocco, G., Riemann, H., 1997. Quality assessment of polygon labeling. Photogramm. Eng. Remote Sens. 63 Ž4., 393–395. Bocco, G., Mendoza, M., Velazquez, A., Torres, M.A., 1998. ´ Forest cover change in Mexico. J. Soil Water Conserv. 52 Ž2., 164. Brodnig, G., Mayer, V., 2000. Bridging the gap: the role of spatial

G. Bocco et al.r Geomorphology 39 (2001) 211–219 Novak, I.D., Soulakellis, N., 2000. Identifying geomorphic features using LANDSAT-5rTM data processing techniques on Lesvos, Greece. Geomorphology 34 Ž1–2., 101–109. Panizza, M., 1996. Environmental Geomorphology. Elsevier, Amsterdam. Pasuto, A., Soldati, M., 1999. The use of landslide units in geomorphological mapping: an example in the Italian Dolomites. Geomorphology 30 Ž1–2., 53–64. Pickup, G., Chewings, V.H., 1996. Correlation between DEM-derived topographic indices and remotely sensed vegetation cover in rangelands. Earth Surf. Processes Landforms 21, 517–529. Rivas, V., Rix, K., Frances, E., Cendrero, A., Brunsden, D., 1997. ´ Geomorphological indicators for environmental impact assessment: consumable and non-consumable geomorphological resources. Geomorphology 18 Ž3–4., 169–182. Rossiter, D.G., 1990. ALES: a framework for land evaluation using a microcomputer. Soil Use Manage. 6 Ž1., 7–20. Snow, C.P., 1998. Using the knowledge base to make the world more sustainable. Abstract, Presidential Plenary Session, Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Boston, MA.


Steiner, F.R., Pease, J.R., Coughlin, R.E. ŽEds.., 1994. A Decade with LESA: The Evolution of Land Evaluation and Site Assessment. Soil and Water Conservation Society, Washington, DC. Thoms, C., Betters, D., 1998. The potential for ecosystem management in Mexico’s forest ejidos. For. Ecol. Manage. 103, 149–157. van Zuidam, R., van Zuidam, F.I., 1985. Terrain Analysis. ITC, Enschede, The Netherlands. Verstappen, H.Th., 1983. Applied Geomorphology. Elsevier, Amsterdam. Walsh, S.J., Butler, D.R., Malanson, G.P., 1998. An overview of scale, pattern, process relationships in geomorphology: a remote sensing and GIS perspective. Geomorphology 21 Ž3–4., 183–205. Wright, R.L., 1972. Principles in a geomorphological approach to land classification. Z. Geomorphol. 16, 351–373. Zinck, J.A., 1988. Physiography and Soils. ITC, Enschede, The Netherlands.