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We present a landslide susceptibility model for the Collazzone area, central Italy, and we propose a framework for evaluating
the model reliability and prediction skill. The landslide susceptibility model was obtained through discriminant analysis of 46
thematic environmental variables and using the presence of shallow landslides obtained from a multi-temporal inventory map as the
dependent variable for statistical analysis. By comparing the number of correctly and incorrectly classified mapping units, it is
established that the model classifies 77.0% of 894 mapping units correctly. Model fitting performance is investigated by comparing
the proportion of the study area in each probability class with the corresponding proportion of landslide area. We then prepare an
ensemble of 350 landslide susceptibility models using the same landslide and thematic information but different numbers of
mapping units. This ensemble is exploited to investigate the model reliability, including the role of the thematic variables used to
construct the model, and the model sensitivity to changes in the input data. By studying the variation of the model's susceptibility
estimate, the error associated with the susceptibility assessment for each mapping unit is determined. This result is shown on a map
that complements the landslide susceptibility map. Prediction skill of the susceptibility model is then estimated by comparing the
forecast with two recent event inventory maps. The susceptibility model is found capable of predicting the newly triggered
landslides. A general framework for testing a susceptibility model is proposed, including a scheme for ranking the quality of the
susceptibility assessment.

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www.elsevier.com/locate/geomorph

Fausto Guzzetti , Paola Reichenbach, Francesca Ardizzone, Mauro Cardinali, Mirco Galli

IRPI CNR, via Madonna Alta 126, 06128 Perugia, Italy

Received 18 July 2005; received in revised form 13 November 2005; accepted 19 April 2006

Available online 22 May 2006

Abstract

We present a landslide susceptibility model for the Collazzone area, central Italy, and we propose a framework for evaluating

the model reliability and prediction skill. The landslide susceptibility model was obtained through discriminant analysis of 46

thematic environmental variables and using the presence of shallow landslides obtained from a multi-temporal inventory map as the

dependent variable for statistical analysis. By comparing the number of correctly and incorrectly classified mapping units, it is

established that the model classifies 77.0% of 894 mapping units correctly. Model fitting performance is investigated by comparing

the proportion of the study area in each probability class with the corresponding proportion of landslide area. We then prepare an

ensemble of 350 landslide susceptibility models using the same landslide and thematic information but different numbers of

mapping units. This ensemble is exploited to investigate the model reliability, including the role of the thematic variables used to

construct the model, and the model sensitivity to changes in the input data. By studying the variation of the model's susceptibility

estimate, the error associated with the susceptibility assessment for each mapping unit is determined. This result is shown on a map

that complements the landslide susceptibility map. Prediction skill of the susceptibility model is then estimated by comparing the

forecast with two recent event inventory maps. The susceptibility model is found capable of predicting the newly triggered

landslides. A general framework for testing a susceptibility model is proposed, including a scheme for ranking the quality of the

susceptibility assessment.

2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Landslide susceptibility; Statistically based model; Discriminant analysis; Quality; Uncertainty; Validation; Landslide prediction; Map

1. Introduction

Susceptibility is the propensity of an area to generate

landslides. In mathematical form, landslide susceptibility is the probability of spatial occurrence of known

slope failures, given a set of geoenvironmental conditions (Guzzetti et al., 2005). Assuming landslides will

occur in the future because of the same conditions that

produced them in the past (Guzzetti et al., 1999),

Corresponding author. Tel.: +39 075 5014 413; fax: +39 075 5014

420.

E-mail address: Fausto.Guzzetti@irpi.cnr.it (F. Guzzetti).

0169-555X/$ - see front matter 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2006.04.007

geographical location of future landslides (Chung and

Fabbri, 1999; Guzzetti et al., 2005). Many methods have

been proposed to evaluate landslide susceptibility at the

basin scale, including direct geomorphological mapping, heuristic approaches, statistical classification

methods and physically based models (Carrara et al.,

1995; Soeters and van Westen, 1996; Chung and Fabbri,

1999; Guzzetti et al., 1999, and references therein).

Statistical classification methods are particularly suited

to determining landslide susceptibility over large and

complex areas (e.g., Cardinali et al., 2002). Such

methods provide quantitative estimates of where

on the distribution of past landslides and a set of thematic

environmental information. The former becomes the

dependent variable and the latter the independent

variables for the statistical modelling. Landslide susceptibility does not forecast when or how frequently a

landslide will occur or how large and destructive the

slope failure will be (Guzzetti et al., 2005).

In recent years, many landslide susceptibility assessments (often referred to as hazard assessments) have

been published. We counted at least 40 papers in major

international journals in the 6-year period from 2000 to

2005 discussing landslide susceptibility. The majority of

the published papers present a statistically based

susceptibility model and discuss the data and the

method used to prepare the model, but provide little or

no information on the quality of the proposed model.

This is a limitation of much previous research (Chung

and Fabbri, 2003), including some of our own work

(e.g., Carrara et al., 1995; Guzzetti et al., 1999; Cardinali

et al., 2002).

Any attempt to ascertain landslide susceptibility in a

region needs proper validation. Validation should

establish the quality (i.e., reliability, robustness, degree

of fitting and prediction skill) of the proposed

susceptibility estimate. The quality of a landslide

susceptibility model can be ascertained using the same

landslide data used to obtain the susceptibility estimate,

or by using independent landslide information not

available to construct the model. The former allows

for (i) evaluating the degree of match between the

predicted susceptibility levels in a given region, and the

distribution and abundance of known landslides in the

same region; (ii) evaluating the role of the thematic

information in constructing the model; (iii) assessing the

ability of the model to cope with variations in the input

data; and (iv) determining the error associated with the

obtained susceptibility estimate. The latter allows for

determining the prediction skill of the model to forecast

the location of new or reactivated landslides (Chung and

Fabbri, 2003; Guzzetti et al., 2005).

In this paper, we provide a comprehensive validation

of a landslide susceptibility model prepared through

discriminant analysis of thematic information for the

Collazzone area in central Umbria (Fig. 1). The

landslide susceptibility model is first presented. A set

of tests is then performed, aimed at evaluating the

quality and robustness of the model. We further test the

ability of the model to predict new landslides by

comparing the susceptibility estimate against the

distribution of slope failures that occurred after the

model was prepared. Results obtained are discussed, and

167

Shaded relief image shows the hilly morphology of the area.

ranking the quality of a statistically based landslide

susceptibility model.

2. The study area

The Collazzone area extends for 78.9 km2 in central

Umbria, Italy (Fig. 1). Elevation in the area ranges from

145 m to 634 m above sea level, with an average value

of 273 m (standard deviation = 96.1 m). Terrain gradient

computed from a 10 m 10 m DTM ranges from 0 to

63.7 degree, with a mean value of 9.9 and a standard

deviation of 6.4. In the area the terrain is hilly, valleys

are asymmetrical, and the lithology and attitude of

bedding control the morphology of the slopes. Gravel,

sand, clay, travertine, layered sandstone and marl, and

thinly layered limestone, Lias to Holocene in age, crop

out in the area. Soils range in thickness from a few

decimetres to more than 1 m; they have a fine or medium

texture and exhibit a xenic moisture regime, typical of

the Mediterranean climate. Precipitation is most abundant in October and November; with a mean annual

rainfall in the period from 1921 to 2001 of 884 mm.

Snow falls on the area on average every 23 years.

Landslides are abundant in the area, and range in age,

type, morphology and volume from very old, partly

eroded, large and deep-seated slides to young, shallow

slides and flows. Slope failures are triggered chiefly by

168

rainfall and rapid snow melt.

3. Landslide susceptibility model

For the Collazzone area, we prepared a landslide

susceptibility model using discriminant analysis of 46

environmental thematic variables, including morphology, hydrology, lithology, structure, bedding attitude and

land use. To determine landslide susceptibility, we

subdivided the study area into mapping units, i.e.,

portions of the ground that contain a set of conditions

that differ from the adjacent units across distinct

boundaries (Guzzetti et al., 1999). To establish the

terrain subdivisions, we adopted the approach proposed

by Carrara et al. (1991), which has proven to be reliable

in predicting landslide susceptibility in Umbria (Carrara

et al., 1991, 1995, 1999; Guzzetti et al., 1999; Cardinali

et al., 2002). We obtained the terrain subdivision using

specialised software that, starting from a 10 m 10 m

DTM, generated drainage and divide lines. The DTM

was prepared by automatic interpolation of 10 and 5-m

interval contour lines obtained from 1:10,000 scale

topographic maps. By combining the drainage and

divide lines, the software automatically identified 894

elementary slopes units (i.e., sub-basins) which represent the mapping units of reference for the determination

of landslide susceptibility in the Collazzone area. The

procedure also calculated a number of morphological

and hydrological parameters: some correspond to those

acquired by traditional methods (e.g., channel length,

designed to model the spatial distribution of landslides

(e.g., slope unit area, slope unit terrain gradient, slope

unit aspect, slope unit terrain roughness, etc.) (Carrara et

al., 1991, 1995).

As the dependent variable for the statistical analysis,

we used the presence or absence of shallow landslides

that occurred before 1997 (Table 1, Fig. 2) in the 894

mapping units into which the study area was partitioned.

The distribution of landslides was obtained from a

detailed, multi-temporal landslide inventory map prepared at 1:10,000 scale. The landslide inventory was

prepared through the systematic interpretation of five

sets of aerial photographs (Table 2), supplemented by

field surveys. Two geomorphologists carried out the

interpretation of the aerial photographs in the 5-month

period from July to November 2002. The investigators

looked at each pair of aerial photographs using a mirror

stereoscope (4 magnification) and a continue-zoom

stereoscope (3 to 20 magnification). Field surveys

carried out in the period from 1998 to 2004 were

conducted to map new landslides triggered by intense or

prolonged rainfall, and to test the inventory obtained

through photo-interpretation. The field surveys allowed

mapping 230 new or reactivated landslides, most of

which occurred in the period from October to December

2004. The field surveys also revealed that shallow

landslides are uncommon in forested terrain that covers

23.9% of the study area.

In the multi-temporal inventory, landslides were

classified according to the type of movement, and the

Table 1

Descriptive statistics of landslide data sets for the Collazzone study area

Inventory

Multi-temporal landslide

inventory prepared through the

interpretation of five sets of

aerial photographs (Table 2).

Landslides are older than 1941

to December 2004.

Subset of the multi-temporal

inventory showing shallow

landslides and used to prepare

the susceptibility model shown

in Fig. 3. Landslides are older

than 1941 to 1996.

Snowmelt induced landslides

occurred in January 1997

(Fig. 10A).

Rainfall-induced landslides

occurred in autumn 2004

(Fig. 10B).

Type

Number

Area

Total (km2)

Percent (%)

Minimum (m2)

Maximum (m2)

All landslides

Deep-seated landslides

Shallow landslides

2760

363

2397

12.51

7.70

6.53

15.8

9.76

8.28

51

3815

51

173,518

173,518

64,691

Shallow landslides

1759

5.77

7.31

103

43,204

413

7

406

153

1

152

0.78

0.14

0.64

0.38

0.05

0.33

0.98

0.17

0.81

0.48

0.06

0.42

78

10,199

78

51

47,884

51

44,335

44,335

9882

47,884

47,884

12,098

All landslides

Deep-seated landslides

Shallow landslides

All landslides

Deep-seated landslides

Shallow landslides

landslides (see Table 1). Original map scale 1:10,000.

type was defined according to Cruden and Varnes

(1996). Landslide age, activity, depth, and velocity were

determined based on the type of movement, the

morphological characteristics and appearance of the

landslides on the aerial photographs, the local lithological and structural setting, and the date of the aerial

photographs. Landslide age was defined as recent, old or

very old, despite ambiguity in the definition of the age of

a mass movement based on its appearance (McCalpin,

1984). Overall, the multi-temporal inventory map shows

2760 landslides (Table 1A). The subset of shallow

landslides used to prepare the susceptibility model

includes 1759 landslides, covering 5.77 km2 of the

study area (Table 2B).

To account for possible cartographic and drafting

errors in the production of the multi-temporal inventory

map (e.g., landslides erroneously mapped as crossing a

divide or a stream line), we established an empirical

threshold to decide if a mapping unit contained or was

free of landslides. Slope units having less than 2% of the

area covered by shallow slope failures were considered

free of landslides, whilst slope units having 2% or more

of their area covered were considered as containing

landslides.

Independent variables used in the statistical analysis

of the shallow landslides included morphological,

169

hydrological, lithological, structural and land-use information. We obtained 26 variables describing hydrology

and morphology from the same DTM used to perform

the subdivision of the study area into slope units.

Hydrological variables included slope unit drainage

channel length, gradient, order and magnitude, and slope

unit area and upstream contributing area. Morphological

variables included slope unit mean elevation, standard

deviation of elevation, mean length, mean terrain

gradient and standard deviation of terrain gradient,

slope unit aspect (in six classes), slope unit terrain

roughness, and mean terrain gradient for the upper,

intermediate and lower portions of the slope unit. From

the latter three statistics, derivative variables describing

the shape of the slope unit profile (concave, convex,

irregular, etc.) were obtained. Since most of the

morphological variables describe average terrain conditions in a slope unit, local testing of the variables in the

field was problematic and was not performed. We

compiled lithological and structural data, including the

attitude of bedding, through detailed lithological and

structural mapping at 1:10,000 scale. The lithological

map did not show the distribution and thickness of the

soils or the colluvial deposits. We obtained information

on land use from a map compiled in 1977 by the Umbria

Regional Government, largely revised and updated by

interpreting the most recent aerial photographs (Table 2).

To determine landslide susceptibility we adopted

discriminant analysis, a multivariate technique introduced by Fisher (1936) to classify samples into

alternative groups on the basis of a set of measurements

(Michie et al., 1994; Brown, 1998; SPSS, 2004). More

precisely, the goal of discriminant analysis is to classify

cases into one of several mutually exclusive groups

based on their values for a set of predictor variables. The

grouping variable must be categorical and the predictor

variables can be interval or dichotomous. For landslide

susceptibility assessment most commonly two groups

are established, namely, (i) mapping units free of

landslides (G0, stable slopes); and (ii) mapping units

having landslides (G1, unstable slopes). The assumption

Table 2

Aerial photographs used to prepare the multi-temporal landslide

inventory map (1 to 4) (Fig. 2) and the inventory of snowmelt induced

landslides (5) (Fig. 10A) for the Collazzone area

ID

Year

Period

Type

Nominal scale

1

2

3

4

5

1941

1954

1977

1985

1997

Summer

SpringSummer

June

July

April

Panchromatic

Panchromatic

Colour

Panchromatic

Panchromatic

1:18,000

1:33,000

1:13,000

1:15,000

1:20,000

170

mapping unit r pertains only to one group. In the context

of landslide susceptibility, the scope of discriminant

analysis is to determine the group membership of a

mapping unit by finding a linear combination of the

environmental variables which maximizes the differences between the populations of stable and unstable

slopes with minimal error. To obtain this, consider a set

of m environmental variables 1, 2, , m for each

mapping unit, r, by means of which it is desired to

discriminate the region between the groups of stable

(G0) and unstable (G1) slopes, and let Z be a linear

combination of the input variables, such as Z = 11(r)

+ 22(r) + + mm(r). For discriminant analysis, the

task is to determine the coefficients by means of some

criterion that will enable Z to serve as an index for

differentiating between members of the two groups. The

linear discriminant function Z transforms the original

sets of measurements into a discriminant score, which

represents the sample position along a line defined by

the same discriminant function. To measure how far

apart the two groups are along this line, different

distances can be used (e.g., Euclidean, diagonal or

Mahalonobis distances; Michie et al., 1994; Gorsevski

et al., 2003). A larger distance indicates that it is easy

to discriminate between the two groups. Posterior

probabilities are then used to express the likelihood of

a mapping unit belonging to one group or the other

(Brown, 1998). Thus, when probabilities are derived

from a discriminant analysis, they represent the

likelihood of a mapping unit pertaining to one of the

two groups established a priori. The relative contribution of each independent environmental variable to the

discriminating function can be evaluated by studying the

standardized discriminant function coefficients (SDFC).

The SDFC show the relative importance (i.e., the

weight) of each variable as a predictor of slope

instability. Variables with large coefficients (in absolute

value) are more strongly associated with the presence or

the absence of landslides. The sign of the coefficient

indicates whether the variable is positively or negatively

correlated to instability within a mapping unit.

Using the landslide and environmental data available

for the Collazzone area, a discriminant function automatically selected 16 (out of 46) variables as the best

predictors of the presence (or absence) of landslides in the

894 slope units in which the study area was partitioned. A

step-wise procedure was used. The procedure entered and

removed variables in a stepwise fashion, based on a

minimum tolerance value of 0.001; the tolerance of a

variable candidate for inclusion in the analysis was the

proportion of the within-groups variance not accounted

Table 3 lists the 16 selected environmental variables and

the associated standardized discriminant function coefficients. For convenience, a threshold of |0.250| for the

SDFC was selected to outline the variables more strongly

associated with the presence (negative SDFC) or the

absence (positive SDFC) of landslides. This threshold is

heuristic and its significance for landslide susceptibility

must be verified.

Fig. 3 portrays the results of the landslide susceptibility model for shallow landslides. The map expresses

the probability that each slope unit contains shallow

landslides in the multi-temporal inventory map shown in

Fig. 2. If a slope unit has a high probability of containing

a known shallow landslide, the same mapping unit is

classified as landslide prone. On the contrary, if a slope

unit has a low probability of having known shallow

landslides, the mapping unit is considered stable.

Intermediate values of probability indicate the inability

of the model to classify the mapping unit with the

available thematic information (80 mapping units,

8.95%), and not necessarily conditions of marginal or

intermediate stability.

The first question to ask when a landslide susceptibility model is prepared through a statistical classification technique is how well has the model performed in

classifying the mapping units? This involves determining the degree of model fit. A straightforward way of

testing model fit consists of counting the number of

cases (i.e., the number of mapping units) correctly

Table 3

Variables selected by a stepwise discriminant function as the best

predictors of landslide occurrence (Fig. 3)

Variable description

Variable

SDFC

Slope unit elevation standard deviation

Slope unit length

Slope unit terrain gradient (upper portion)

Cultivated area

Bedding dipping out of the slope

Slope unit with convex slope

(downslope profile)

Travertine

Slope unit facing S-SE

Slope unit drainage channel order

Recent alluvial deposit

Gravel and coarse continental sediments

Slope unit terrain gradient standard deviation

Marl

Downslope concave profile

Limestone

SLO_ANG

ELV_STD

SLO_LEN

ANGLE3

SS

FRA

CONV

0.398

0.370

0.287

0.282

0.276

0.241

0.135

TRAVERTI

TR2

ORDER

ALLUVIO

GHIAIA

ANG_STD

MARNE

CC

CARBO

0.105

0.133

0.140

0.144

0.179

0.219

0.285

0.303

0.833

presence (negative SDFC) or the absence (positive SDFC) of landslides.

occurrence (landslide susceptibility). Study area subdivided into 894

slope units. Square bracket, class limit included; round bracket,

probability class limit not included. See Tables 3 and 4 for model

classification results.

model shown in Fig. 3. The susceptibility model

correctly classifies 688 of the 894 mapping units in

which the study area was partitioned. The figure

represents a measure of the overall goodness of fit

of the model. Of the 206 misclassified cases, 121 are

mapping units free of landslides that were classified as

unstable by the model, and 85 are mapping units that

showed landslides in the inventory map and were

attributed to the stable group by the model. The

former may be the result of errors in the inventory map

171

concealed by erosion, land use changes, ploughing or

other human actions). The latter are mapping units that

have environmental conditions typical of stable slopes,

and where landslides took place owing to local

conditions not accounted for by the model (e.g., local

structural conditions, particularly thick soil, local land

use or surface drainage modifications). Further inspection of Table 4 reveals that the susceptibility model is

more efficient in correctly classifying mapping units that

have landslides (84.1%), and less efficient in classifying

mapping units free of slope failures (66.4%). We

attribute the difference to the larger number of mapping

units with shallow landslides, when compared to the

mapping units free of slope failures. Indeed, in the study

area 534 mapping units (59.7%) have shallow landslides

and 360 mapping units (40.3%) are free of shallow

landslides (Fig. 2).

An alternative way of measuring the reliability of a

susceptibility modelin terms of its ability to classify

known landslidesinvolves the use of Cohen's Kappa

index (Cohen, 1960; Hoehler, 2000). To compute this

index we prepared Table 5 that shows the proportion

(i.e., the observed probability) of mapping units in each

of the four classification cases listed in Table 4. Table 5

also shows the marginal totals obtained by summing the

proportions along the table rows and columns. In Table

5 values in parentheses represent the expected proportion on the basis of chance associations, i.e., the joint

probability of the marginal proportions. The Kappa

index is obtained as:

j

PC PE

lVxV1

1 PC

classified as stable or unstable, and PE is the proportion

of mapping units for which the agreement is expected by

chance. In this case, = 0.513. Landis and Kock (1977)

have suggested that for 0.41 0.60, the strength of

Table 4

Comparison between slope units classified as stable or unstable by the statistical model (Fig. 3) and slope units free of and containing shallow

landslides in the multi-temporal inventory map shown in Fig. 2

Predicted groups (model)

landslides in inventory map

Group 1 slope units containing

shallow landslides in inventory map

Overall percentage of slope units correctly classified = 77.0%, 688 slope units.

Group 0

Group 1

239 (66.4%)

121 (33.6%)

360 (100%)

85 (15.9%)

449 (84.1%)

534 (100%)

172

Table 5

Comparison between the proportion of slope units classified as stable or unstable by the susceptibility model (Fig. 3) and the proportion of slope units

free of and containing shallow landslides in the multi-temporal inventory map (Fig. 2)

Predicted groups (model)

landslides in inventory map

Group 1 slope units containing

shallow landslides in inventory map

Marginal totals

Group 0

Group 1

Marginal

totals

0.267 (0.146)

0.135 (0.257)

0.403

0.095 (0.216)

0.502 (0.381)

0.597

0.362

0.638

1.000

values is moderate.

In addition to Cohen's Kappa index, other indexes

can be computed to measure the performance of a

statistical classification. Most commonly, the indexes

are obtained from figures listed in a contingency table

similar to Table 5. Table 6 shows 13 statistical indexes

obtained from Table 4. For a discussion of the

significance and properties of the individual performance indexes listed in Table 6, see Mason (2003) and

references therein.

Tables 4 and 5 provide a combined estimate of model

fit, but do not provide a detailed description of the model

performance of the different susceptibility classes

(Chung and Fabbri, 1999, 2003). To determine this,

we compare the total area of known landslides in each

susceptibility class with the percentage area of the

susceptibility class. Fig. 4 shows the percentage of the

study area ranked from most to least susceptible (x-axis)

against the cumulative percentage of landslide area in

each susceptibility class (y-axis). Most of the landslides

areas classified as susceptible by the model, and only

6.4% of the slope failures are in areas classified as not or

weakly susceptible (probability 0.45) by the model.

The latter is in agreement with the reduced number of

mapping units (85, 9.51%) having landslides and

erroneously attributed to the stable group by the

model (Table 4). Fig. 4 provides a quantitative

indication of the ability of the susceptibility model to

match (fit) the known distribution of shallow landslides in the Collazzone area (Fig. 2).

4. Uncertainty in the landslide susceptibility model

Any landslide susceptibility prediction has a level of

uncertainty. Sources of uncertainty include (i) errors

and incompleteness in the landslide and thematic

Table 6

Statistical indexes measuring the performance of the susceptibility

model shown in Fig. 3

Index

Value

Range

False alarm rate

Specificity

False alarm ratio

Positive predictive value

Negative predictive value

Proportion correct

Proportion correct by chance

Cohen's Kappa coefficient

Heidke skill score

Peirce's skill score

Critical success index

Yule's Q

0.664

0.159

0.841

0.262

0.738

0.788

0.770

0.527

0.513

0.107

0.505

0.537

0.825

[0,1]

[0,1]

[0,1]

[0,1]

[0,1]

[0,1]

[0,1]

[0,1]

[ ,1]

[ 1,1]

[ 1,1]

[0,1]

[ 1,1]

model shown in Fig. 3.

imperfect understanding of landslide processes and their

geographical and temporal evolution; (iii) limitations in

the techniques used to determine the susceptibility; and

(iv) the inherent natural variability of the landslide

phenomena (Carrara et al., 1992, 1999; Ardizzone et al.,

2002).

Determining the errors associated with the geomorphological, geological and other thematic information is

no trivial task. Improving the understanding of the

landslide processes is feasible, but requires time and

resources often not available to landslide investigators.

The characteristics of the methods used to ascertain

landslide susceptibility are known (Carrara et al., 1995;

Soeters and van Westen, 1996; Chung and Fabbri, 1999;

Guzzetti et al., 1999), but their limitations and drawbacks when applied to specific areas, data sets, and

landslide types remain poorly investigated. Despite

these problems, we argue that determining the errors

associated with a landslide susceptibility assessment is

of primary importance. Different types of uncertainty

contribute to the model error, including: (i) uncertainty

in the model classification due to the type, abundance

and reliability of the available thematic information; (ii)

uncertainty in the classification of individual mapping

units; and (iii) uncertainty in the ability of the model to

predict future landslides (prediction skill).

In the following, we propose a framework to test our

susceptibility model. Tests aim at (i) investigating the

role of the thematic information in the production of the

susceptibility model; (ii) determining the model sensitivity and robustness to variations in the input data; (iii)

determining the error associated with the susceptibility

prediction obtained for each mapping unit; and (iv)

testing the model prediction against independent

landslide information.

5. Analysis of model reliability

5.1. Construction of an ensemble of landslide

susceptibility models

To determine the reliability of the landslide susceptibility assessment shown in Fig. 3, we prepared an

ensemble of landslide susceptibility models. The ensemble contains 350 different susceptibility models obtained

from the same set of 46 independent thematic variables

and the same multi-temporal landslide map (Fig. 2) but

using a different number of terrain units, from 268 (30%)

to 849 (95% of the 894) units. To obtain the ensemble we

adopted the following strategy. First, a subset containing

30% of the mapping units (268 units) was obtained by

173

The random selection was repeated 50 times, obtaining a

group of 50 different subsets, each containing 268

mapping units. This collection of 50 subsets of mapping

units became group G30 for the analysis (30% selected

mapping units). The selection process was repeated,

changing the number of the selected units heuristically.

We obtained collections with 45%, 55%, 65%, 75%, 85%,

and 95% mapping units, respectively. These collections,

each listing 50 subsets of mapping units, became groups

G45, G55, G65, G75, G85 and G95. Overall, the ensemble

contains 350 subsets of mapping units, i.e., 7 groups (from

G30 to G95) each containing 50 subsets.

Landslide susceptibility models were prepared for

each subset of the ensemble, obtaining 350 different

susceptibility models, i.e., 350 different forecasts of

landslide susceptibility for the Collazzone area. The

large number of susceptibility forecasts was exploited to

study the errors associated with the landslide susceptibility model shown in Fig. 3.

5.2. Role of the independent thematic variables

The role of the 46 independent thematic variables

used to construct the landslide susceptibility model is

first considered. For this purpose, group G85 is used. For

this group, Table 7 lists the number and the percentage

of the 50 models that selected (or did not select) the 46

variables, and whether the variables were selected as

predictors of slope stability (S) or of slope instability (I).

Inspection of Table 7 reveals that of the 46 considered

variables, 38 (82.6%) were selected in at least one of the

50 models encompassing G85, and 8 (17.4%) variables

were never selected as predictors of landslide occurrence. Of the 38 selected variables, 15 (39.5%) were

selected by 25 or more models, and 7 (18.4%) were

selected by 45 or more models.

The 50 stepwise discriminant functions constructed

from G85 selected from as few as 11 to as many as 18

variables (mode 14 variables). All the selected variables,

with the exception of drainage magnitude (MAGN),

were either always selected as negatively (I, in Table 7)

or always selected as positively (S, in Table 7) in

association with the presence of landslides. We take this

as an indication of the consistency of the role of the

thematic variables in explaining the known distribution

of landslides, which contributes to the reliability of the

susceptibility model.

Inspection of Table 7 further indicates that more than

75% of the prepared models used the same set of 10

variables. These variables included: four variables

describing morphology (ELV_STD, ANG_STD, SLO_

174

Table 7

Independent thematic variables selected, or not selected, by 50 discriminant functions as the best predictors of landslide occurrence

Variables

SDFC

Susceptibility

models

#

Limestone

Bedding dipping out of the slope

Gravel and coarse continental sediments

Marl

Slope unit terrain gradient standard deviation

Slope unit length

Slope unit mean terrain gradient

Cultivated area

Slope unit facing S-SE

Downslope concave slope

Slope unit drainage channel order

Recent alluvial deposit

Slope unit with convex slope (downslope profile)

Sandstone

Travertine

Slope unit terrain gradient (upper portion)

Forested area

Slope unit area

Slope unit drainage channel length

Slope unit surface roughness index

Slope unit slope (lower portion)

Slope unit mean elevation

Concave profile downslope

Drainage channel mean slope

Continental deposit

Sand

Slope unit drainage channel magnitude

Urban area

Bedding dipping into the slope

Bedding dipping across the slope

Slope unit facing N-NE

Standard deviation of terrain unit length

Slope unit with convexconcave slope (downslope profile)

Slope unit with irregular slope (downslope profile)

Clay

Cultivated area with trees

Vineyards

Drainage basins total area upstream the slope unit

Slope unit terrain gradient (intermediate portion)

Concaveconvex profile downslope

Slope unit rectilinear profile

Fruits trees

Pasture

Slope unit facing S-SW

Deposit of ancient landslide

ELV_STD

CARBO

FRA

GHIAIA

MARNE

ANG_STD

SLO_LEN

SLO_ANG

SS

TR2

CC

ORDER

ALLUVIO

CONV

AREN

TRAVERTI

ANGLE3

BOSCO

SLO_ARE

LINK_LEN

R

ANGLE1

ELV_M

CONC

LNK_ANG

CONTI

SABBIA

MAGN

URB

REG

TRA

TR1

LEN_STD

COC_COV

IRR

ARGILLA

SA

VIG

AREAT_K

ANGLE2

COV_COC

RET

FRUTT

PASCOLO

TR3

FRA_OLD

Predictor

0.370

0.833

0.241

0.179

0.285

0.219

0.287

0.398

0.276

0.133

0.303

0.134

0.144

0.135

50

100

I

50

100

S

49

98

I

47

94

S

47

94

S

45

90

S

45

90

I

41

82

I

40

80

I

38

76

S

33

66

S

30

60

S

30

60

S

27

54

I

25

50

S

0.105

23

46

S

0.282

21

42

I

21

42

S

13

26

I

10

20

I

10

20

I

5

10

I

4

8

I

4

8

I

3

6

S

3

6

I

3

6

I

2

4

I/S

2

4

S

2

4

S

2

4

I

2

4

I

1

2

S

1

2

S

1

2

S

1

2

I

1

2

I

1

2

S

Variables were never selected as predictors of landslide

occurrence

(CARBO, GHIAIA, MARNE), one variable for the

attitude of bedding (FRA), one variable describing

slope aspect (TR2), and one variable describing a land

use type (SS). The 10 variables are also present in

Table 3. Comparison of Tables 3 and 7 reveals that,

selected to construct the susceptibility model shown in

Fig. 3 are listed in Table 7 as the most selected

variables. We take this as further indication of the

ability of the selected variables to explain the known

distribution of landslides.

The sensitivity of the susceptibility model to changes

in the input data is then investigated. In general, results

of a robust (least sensitive) statistical model should not

change significantly if the input data are changed within

a reasonable range. To investigate the sensitivity of the

susceptibility model to changes in the input data, we use

the entire ensemble of models, and we study the

variation in the overall percentage of mapping units

correctly classified by the 350 models. Three cases are

considered: (i) mapping units selected by the adopted

random selection procedure and classified by the

discriminant functions (selected units, i.e., training

or modelling set, Fig. 5A); (ii) mapping units not

selected by the random selection procedure and

175

the corresponding subset of selected units (non-selected

units, i.e., classification or validation set, Fig. 5B);

and (iii) all mapping units, irrespective of the fact that

they pertained to the selected (training) or the nonselected (classification) sets (Fig. 5C).

In Fig. 5A, the box plots show that an increase in the

number of the selected mapping units results in a slight

decrease of the median value (50th percentile) of the

model fit, and in a significant decrease of the variability

(10th to 90th percentile range) of the model fit. This was

expected. Given the large number of the available

thematic variables (46), a reduced number of cases (268

mapping units for G30) allows for a (apparently) better

model classification (mean = 78.36% for G30) at the

expense of model variability, which is large (std. dev.

= 2.59% for G30). Further inspection of Fig. 5A indicates

that a reduction in the percentage of mapping units

correctly classified, and in the corresponding scatter in

the susceptibility estimates, become negligible for

percentages of the considered mapping units exceeding

75%. Thus, susceptibility models obtained using 75% or

more of mapping units do not differ significantlyin

terms of the number of correctly classified unitsfrom

the model obtained using the entire set of 894 terrain

units. We take this as indication of the model ability to

cope with significant (up to 25%) random variation in

the input data.

Fig. 5B provides similar results for the non-selected

subsets. The overall model fit and its scatter increase

with a decreasing number of non-selected units.

Comparison of Fig. 5A and B reveals that models

prepared using the selected units result in a better

classification (i.e., in a larger model classification)

when compared to the models obtained using the nonselected units. This was also expected. Any statistical

classification provides better results on the training set,

and performs less efficiently when applied to the

validation set (Michie et al., 1994). Fig. 5C shows the

result for the collection of the selected (training) and

the non-selected (validation) subsets. The box plots

show the cumulative effect of the mapping units

correctly classified in the training and in the validation

sets. For this reason, the scatter around the median is

reduced, particularly for percentages of mapping units

exceeding 75%.

5.4. Uncertainty in the susceptibility estimate of

individual mapping units

Fig. 3. (A) Training set. (B) Validation set. (C) All mapping units.

Numbers of elements in each group are shown.

The adopted approach to ascertain landslide susceptibility provides a unique value for the probability of

176

susceptibility) for each mapping unit (Fig. 3). The

approach does not provide a measure of the error

associated with the probability estimate. This is a

limitation. To obtain an assessment of the error

associated with the susceptibility assessment we use

group G85. This group is selected as a compromise

between model sensitivity and a sufficiently reduced

number of selected mapping units to account for model

variability.

For each mapping unit, Fig. 6 shows the comparison

between the mean value of the 50 probability estimates

obtained using group G85 (x-axis) and the single

probability estimate obtained for the model shown in

Fig. 3 (y-axes), prepared using the entire set of 894 slope

units. The correlation between the two estimates of

landslide susceptibility is very high. We take this as

indication that the two classifications are virtually

identical.

Based on this result, Fig. 7 relates, for the 894

mapping units, the probability estimate of landslide

spatial occurrence (x-axis), ranked from low (left) to

high (right) values, to the variation of the model estimate

(y-axis), measured by 2 standard deviations (2) of the

obtained probability estimate. The measure of 2 is low

(< 0.05) for mapping units classified as highly susceptible (probability > 0.80) and as largely stable (probability < 0.20). The scatter in the model estimate is larger for

intermediate values of the probability (i.e., for probability values between 0.45 and 0.55), indicating that for

the mean value for 50 probability estimates obtained from group G85

(x-axis), and the single probability value obtained for the susceptibility

model shown in Fig. 3 (y-axis).

the Collazzone area, the graph shows the mean value of 50 probability

estimates (x-axis) against two standard deviations (2) of the

probability estimate (y-axis). Statistics obtained from group G85.

Black line shows estimated model error obtained by linear regression

fit (least square method).

satisfactorily classifying the terrain as stable or unstable,

but also that the obtained estimate is highly variable, and

hence, unreliable. Fig. 7 indicates that the variation in

the model estimate can be approximated by the

Fig. 8. Map showing estimated model error (2) for the landslide

susceptibility model shown in Fig. 3. Model error computed using Eq.

(2). Square bracket, class limit included; round bracket, class limit not

included. Larger values indicate increased uncertainty in the

probabilistic estimate of landslide susceptibility.

following quadratic equation, obtained by linear regression fit (least square method):

y 0:309x2 0:308x

0VxV1 r2 0:605

pertaining to an unstable mapping unit (i.e., the

landslide susceptibility estimate), and y is 2 of the

model estimate.

We consider the value of 2 standard deviations of the

model estimate a proxy for the model error. We use Eq.

(2) to estimate quantitatively the model error for each

mapping unit, based on the computed probability

estimate. For each mapping unit, Fig. 8 shows the

error associated with the probability estimate (i.e., to

landslide susceptibility), computed using the quadratic

Eq. (2). Fig. 8 provides a quantitative measure of the

error associated with the quantitative landslide susceptibility assessment shown in Fig. 3.

To investigate further the relationship between the

predicted probability of spatial landslide occurrence

and its variation (error), the 894 mapping units were

ranked according to the mean value of the computed

probability estimates obtained from group G85. In Fig.

9, the rank of the mapping unit (x-axis) was plotted

against statistics of the probability estimates (y-axis).

The thick line shows the average value of the landslide

susceptibility estimates, and the thin lines show 2 of

the estimate. The measure of 2 standard deviations, a

proxy for model error, varies with the predicted

probability of spatial landslide occurrence. The variation is small for mapping units predicted as highly

unstable, increases to a maximum value towards the

centre of the graph where unclassified mapping units

are shown, and decreases again for mapping units

predicted as highly stable.

slope units, ranked from low (left) to high (right) susceptibility values

(x-axis), the graph shows the probability of the spatial occurrence of

landslides (y-axis). Probability estimates obtained from group G85.

177

The tests described in the previous section were

aimed at determining the (statistical) reliability and

robustness of the susceptibility model, and at estimating

the error associated with the quantitative forecast. We

performed all tests using the same landslide information

used to construct the susceptibility model, i.e., the multitemporal shallow landslide inventory map (Fig. 2, Table

1B). The performed tests do not provide insight on the

ability of the susceptibility model to predict the

occurrence of new or reactivated (i.e., future) landslides, which is the goal of any susceptibility assessment

(Chung and Fabbri, 1999; Guzzetti et al., 1999; Chung

and Fabbri, 2003; Guzzetti et al., 2005).

To evaluate the ability of the susceptibility model to

predict future landslides, we exploit the spatial distribution of shallow slope failures obtained from two

recent landslide event inventories. The first inventory

shows 413 landslides triggered by rapid snowmelt in

January 1997 (Fig. 10A, Table 1C). Landslides shown in

this inventory were mapped at 1:10,000 scale through

field surveys and the interpretation of 1:20,000 scale

aerial photographs flown 4 months after the event

(Cardinali et al., 2000; Guzzetti et al., 2003). The second

event inventory shows 153 landslides triggered by

heavy rainfall in the period from October to December

2004 (Fig. 10B, Table 1D). The rainfall-induced landslides were mapped directly in the field at 1:10,000

scale.

Using the two recent event inventories, three tests are

performed to determine the ability of the susceptibility

model to predict future landslides. The first test consists

of computing the proportion of the event's landslide

area in each susceptibility class, and showing the results

using cumulative statistics. Fig. 11 shows the percentage

of the study area, ranked from most to least susceptible

(x-axis), against the cumulative percentage of the area of

the triggered landslides in each susceptibility class (yaxis), for the snowmelt-induced landslides in January

1997 (dashed line), and for the rainfall-induced landslides in autumn 2004 (dotted line). Statistics given in

Fig. 11 provide a quantitative estimate of the model

prediction skill.

The forecasting performance of the susceptibility

model is better for the 1997 snowmelt-induced landslides, and slightly poorer for the 2004 rainfall-induced

landslides. We attribute the difference to the larger

number of snowmelt-induced landslides, a function of

the different severity of the triggering events. In the

study area, rapid snowmelt in January 1997 was a

more severe trigger of landslides than the autumn 2004

178

Fig. 10. Recent landslide event inventory maps. (A) 406 shallow landslides triggered by rapid snowmelt in January 1997. (B) 152 shallow landslides

triggered by heavy rainfall in the period from October to December 2004. Original maps at 1:10,000 scale.

model shown in Fig. 3. Dashed line, shallow landslides triggered by

rapid snowmelt in January 1997 (Fig. 10A). Dotted line, shallow

landslides triggered by heavy rainfall in autumn 2004 (Fig. 10B).

Continuous line, model fitting performance (Fig. 4).

performance is similar to (for rainfall-induced landslides) or even higher (for snow melt-induced landslides) than the model fitting performance (Fig. 4, and

thin line in Fig. 11). This is surprising, because a model

fitting performance is usually higher than its prediction

skill (Chung and Fabbri, 2003; Guzzetti et al., 2005).

The remaining two tests explore further the relationship between the predicted susceptibility classes and the

distribution and abundance of the triggered landslides.

Fig. 12A shows that 60.7% of the snowmelt-induced

landslide areas in January 1997, and 48.3% of the

rainfall-induced landslide areas in autumn 2004 occurred in mapping units classified as highly unstable

(probability > 0.80). Further, 88.7% of the snowmeltinduced landslide areas, and 75.1% of the rainfallinduced landslide areas occurred in unstable or highly

unstable slope units (probability > 0.55). Conversely,

only 2.5% of the snowmelt-induced landslide areas and

only 4.2% of the rainfall-induced landslide areas were

found in mapping units classified as highly stable

(probability 0.20). Fig. 12B shows similar results, but

considers the number of triggered landslides. To obtain

these statistics in the GIS, we established the central

179

2003); and (iii) a scheme designed to evaluate (Fig. 7)

and map (Fig. 8) the error associated with the

susceptibility estimate obtained for individual mapping

units. The latter is an improvement over existing

modelling approaches, which is especially relevant

when landslide susceptibility assessments are used for

planning purposes (Guzzetti et al., 2000) or to determine

landslide hazard (Guzzetti et al., 2005, 2006).

Based on the results obtained in the Collazzone area,

and aided by the scarce literature on the validation of

landslide susceptibility models (Carrara et al., 1992;

Chung and Fabbri, 1999, 2003, 2005; Ardizzone et al.,

2002; Fabbri et al., 2003; Remondo et al., 2003), a

general framework for establishing the quality of a

landslide susceptibility assessment is proposed, including an objective scheme for ranking the quality of the

assessment.

It is proposed that any landslide susceptibility model

be tested to

susceptibility classes and the distribution and abundance of the

triggered landslides. (A) Cumulative percentage of landslide area in

the susceptibility classes. (B) Cumulative percentage of the number of

triggered landslides in the susceptibility classes (x-axis).

of landslide central points in each mapping unit. About

55.8% of the snowmelt-induced landslides and 53.3% of

the rainfall-induced landslides occurred in mapping

units classified as highly unstable (probability > 0.80).

Conversely, only 2.2% of the snowmelt-induced landslides and only 3.3% of the rainfall-induced landslides

occurred in mapping units classified as highly stable

(probability 0.20). Fig. 12 confirms the aptitude of the

susceptibility model to predict where (i.e., in which

mapping unit) the snowmelt-induced landslides occurred in January 1997, and where the rainfall-induced

landslides occurred in autumn 2004.

7. Discussion

In the previous sections, we have shown how the

quality (i.e., reliability, robustness, degree of fitting and

prediction skill) of a statistically based, landslide

susceptibility model can be assessed quantitatively.

The adopted evaluation procedure includes: (i) standard

methods used to evaluate the goodness of fit of a

statistical classification (e.g., Tables 4 and 5); (ii) tests

proposed in the literature to determine the degree of

model fitting (Fig. 4) and the prediction skill (Fig. 11) of

(ii) establish the aptitude of the thematic information

to construct the model, including an assessment of

the sensitivity of the model to changes in the

landslide and the thematic information used to

construct the model;

(iii) determine the error associated with the probabilistic estimate obtained for each mapping unit; and

(iv) test the skill of the model prediction to forecast

future landslides.

Determining the degree of model fit consists of

establishing how well the model describes the known

distribution of landslides (Tables 4 and 5). The task is

easily performed in a GIS by using the same landslide

information used to construct the susceptibility model.

For the purpose, contingency tables (Tables 4 and 5) and

cumulative statistics of the abundance of landslides in

the susceptibility classes (Fig. 4) can be used. For the

test to be significant, the landslide information must be

representative, accurate, and complete.

To evaluate the role of the thematic information in the

construction of the landslide susceptibility model (Table

7) and to evaluate the model sensitivity (Fig. 5), we

studied the thematic variables entered (and not entered)

in a large set of discriminant classification functions

constructed on a sub-set of randomly selected mapping

units (group G85). In this scheme, the random selection

procedure accounted for the variability in the input data.

The expected error (i.e., the level of uncertainty)

associated with the probabilistic susceptibility estimate

180

investigating the variability of the estimate in the

mapping units. For this purpose, we established two

standard deviations (2) of the model estimate as a

quantitative measure of the model uncertainty, and we

modelled the expected error using equation 2 (Fig. 7).

To show the geographical distribution of the expected

error we prepared the map shown in Fig. 8.

Testing the skill of the susceptibility model to

forecast future landslides can best be accomplished

by using landslide information not available to construct

the susceptibility model. This study used independent

shallow landslide information obtained from two eventinventory maps showing new slope failures triggered by

rapid snow melting (Fig. 10A) and by intense rainfall

(Fig. 10B). Chung and Fabbri (2003, 2005) obtained a

similar result by splitting a multi-temporal inventory

into two temporal subsets, i.e., a training set containing

landslides that occurred before an established date, and a

classification set showing landslides that occurred after

that date. The landslide classification set was used to test

the forecasting performance of the model constructed

from the training set. We argue that our scheme for

testing the model prediction performance is superior,

given the availability of new and independent landslide

information (i.e., the event inventories shown in Fig.

10). In this scheme, to construct the susceptibility model

the entire information about past landslides is exploited

and not a limited subset. As a potential drawback, this

scheme is more limited because a reduced number of

landslides (406 snowmelt-induced and 152 rainfallinduced shallow landslides) is used to ascertain the

model prediction skill.

Chung and Fabbri (2003, 2005) also proposed

splitting the study area geographically into two subareas of equal size: a training (modelling) area and a

validation (classification) area. In this scheme, the

model is constructed in the training area and its

prediction performance is evaluated in the validation

area. Splitting the study area into two adjacent sub-areas

can be problematic. The approach assumes that the

independent thematic variables remain the same in the

training and the classification areas. A rock type or land

use class may be present in an area (e.g., the training

area) but may not be represented in another area (e.g.,

the verification area), making it difficult (or even

impossible) to apply the classification function obtained

in the training area. Further, the approach assumes that

the role of the ensemble of thematic variables in

explaining the known distribution of landslides does

not change geographically. In places, validity of this

assumption may be difficult to establish.

comparing the quality of landslide susceptibility assessments. Based on the listed criteria, when no information

is available on the quality of a landslide susceptibility

model, the resulting zoning map has the lowest possible

level of quality (level 0). We consider this level of

quality unacceptable for modern, statistical or physically

based susceptibility models. When estimates of model

fit are available, the susceptibility assessment has the

least acceptable quality level (level 1). When the error

associated with the predicted susceptibility estimate for

each mapping unit is established, the susceptibility

assessment has a higher level of quality (level 2). Lastly,

when the prediction skill of the model is known, the

susceptibility assessment has a still higher quality rank

(level 4). The proposed scheme allows for summing the

individual quality levels. As an example, a susceptibility

assessment for which the fitting performance (level 1)

and prediction skill (level 4) were determined is quality

level 5. When, for the same susceptibility assessment,

the error associated with the predicted susceptibility for

each mapping unit is established (level 2), the quality

level becomes 7. Adopting the proposed scheme, the

landslide susceptibility model prepared for the Collazzone area has the highest quality level (level 7).

The established set of tests does not guarantee, as

such, the quality of the susceptibility estimate. To obtain

this, the results of the tests must be matched against

established acceptance thresholds. Defining acceptance

thresholds is not an easy task. In the following, based on

the experience gained in landslide susceptibility assessments completed in southern (Carrara, 1983), central

(Carrara et al., 1991, 1995; Guzzetti et al., 1999, 2006;

Cardinali et al., 2002; Carrara et al., 2003) and northern

(Ardizzone et al., 2002; Carrara et al., 2003; Guzzetti et

Table 8

Proposed criteria and levels of quality for landslide susceptibility

models and associated maps

Description

Level

the quality and prediction skill of the landslide

susceptibility assessment.

Estimates of degree of model fit are available

(tests performed using the same landslide information

used to obtain the susceptibility estimate).

Estimates of the error associated with the predicted

susceptibility value in each terrain unit are available

(tests performed using the same landslide information

used to obtain the susceptibility estimate).

Estimates of the model prediction performance are available

(tests performed using independent landslide

information, not used to obtain the susceptibility model).

then compare the results of our tests to the proposed

thresholds.

We consider acceptable a susceptibility model with

an overall degree of model fit greater than about 75%. If

the overall model fit is greater that 80%, we regard the

classification as very satisfactory. An extremely high

value of the overall model fit (e.g., 90%) is an

indication that the model matches too closely the

original landslide inventory map. When such a case

arises, the model prediction is virtually indistinct from a

prediction made using solely the landslide inventory,

making the model suspicious. The case may arise, where

the spatial distribution of landslides is trivial to

forecast or where the number of mapping units is very

small compared to the number of the explanatory

variables (e.g., Campus et al., 1999). An additional

indication of the higher quality of the model consists of

a reduced number (e.g., 15%) of mapping units with

landslides erroneously classified as stable areas by the

model. The overall fit obtained for the susceptibility

model prepared for the Collazzone area was 77.0%

(Table 4), and the proportion of mapping units with

landslides erroneously classified as stable areas was

9.5% (85 units).

A statistical model obtained using a reduced number

of geomorphologically meaningful explanatory variables is less expensive and, thus, superior to a model

which uses a very large number of variables. Further,

use of a stable combination of variables provides for a

robust model that can cope with uncertainty in the input

data. The discriminant function used to construct the

susceptibility model shown in Fig. 3 selected 16 of the

46 available thematic variables (34.8%). Our analysis

(Table 7) revealed that the selected variables were

highly consistent in classifying the mapping units as

stable or unstable in a large number of models. We

consider this an indication of the robustness of the

selected model.

Apart from the example discussed in this work (Figs.

7 and 8), we are not aware of any other susceptibility

assessment for which the error associated with the

probabilistic estimate of landslide occurrence was

determined for individual mapping units. Establishing

an acceptance threshold is therefore difficult. Inspection

of Fig. 7 reveals that most mapping units have an

expected error (2) lower than 10% of the probability

estimate. This figure is taken as a quality acceptance

threshold for the model error. In the model presented

here (Fig. 3), there are only 21 mapping units (2.35%)

that do not match this criterion. Most of the latter units

are in the unclassified probability range (Fig. 7).

181

To appraise the fitting performance and the prediction skill of a landslide susceptibility model, Chung and

Fabbri (2003) proposed comparing the proportion of

landslide area in each susceptibility class (AL) with the

proportion of the susceptibility class (AS) in the study

area. For a successful classification, the effectiveness

ratio AL/AS should be greater than one in the areas

predicted as landslide prone by the model, and less than

one in the areas predicted as stable by the model. A very

effective prediction class has a ratio close to zero or very

large, depending whether the class predicts stability or

instability. Where the effectiveness ratio is near one, the

proportion of landslides in the susceptibility class is not

different from the average landslide density in the study

area, and the performance of the susceptibility class in

determining the known (fitting performance) or the

future (prediction skill) location of landslides is weak.

Chung and Fabbri (2003) considered effective a

susceptibility class with a ratio larger than at least 3

(unstable areas) or less than at most 0.2 (stable areas),

and significantly effective a susceptibility class with a

ratio larger than at least 6 or less than at most 0.1. We

regard these criteria as very hard to match, particularly

in complex areas where landslides are large and

numerous, and where the landscape exhibits considerable geomorphological variability. We consider effective a susceptibility class with an effectiveness ratio

larger than 1.5 or smaller than 0.5, corresponding to a

50% increase or a 50% decrease from the expected

proportion of landslides in the susceptibility class.

Fig. 13 shows the efficacy of the susceptibility model

shown in Fig. 3 in describing the known distribution of

landslides (fitting performance, Fig. 13A), and the

location of future landslides (prediction skill, Fig.

13B and C). Based on the established criteria, 12 of the

20 landslides susceptibility classes are effective in

explaining the distribution of the known (past) landslides used to construct the model. In Fig. 13A, the black

and the white bars exceeding the 1.5 and the 0.5

thresholds, respectively, show these effective classes. In

the figure, the three cross-hachured bars represent

terrain units classified as unstable (spatial probability

in the range from 0.55 to 0.70) where landslides were

not abundant in the multi-temporal inventory map.

Comparison of Fig. 13B and C indicates that the

individual susceptibility classes were better predictors of

the presence (black bars) or the absence (white bars) of

the snowmelt-induced landslides than of the rainfallinduced landslides. For the latter, the number of

ineffective classes is also larger.

It should be clear that the proposed acceptance

thresholds are not absolute or fixed. The proposed limits

182

factors include (i) imprecision and incompleteness in the

landslide information used to construct and test the

susceptibility model (Carrara et al., 1992; Ardizzone et al.,

2002); (ii) quality, abundance, precision and completeness

of the thematic data used to obtain the susceptibility

assessment (Carrara et al., 1992; Soeters and van Westen,

1996; Carrara et al., 1999); (iii) characteristics and

limitations of the statistical technique used to obtain the

classification, including the experience of the investigator

in applying the selected statistical tools (Carrara et al.,

1992; Michie et al., 1994); and (iv) selection of the

appropriate mapping unit (e.g., slope units, unique

condition units, grid cells, etc.) (Carrara et al., 1995;

Guzzetti et al., 1999). The listed factors require choices

from the investigator, which inevitably introduce uncertainty in the susceptibility assessment. For this work we

assumed the landslide information used to construct the

model (Fig. 2, Table 1B) and to test the model prediction

skill (Fig. 10A and B) was accurate and complete. We also

assumed the thematic data were correct and complete and

relevant to the distribution of landslides in the Collazzone

area. We further assumed that the terrain subdivision

adopted to ascertain landslide susceptibility was precise in

describing the morphology of the area, and apt to explain

the size and abundance of landslides in the study area.

Finally, landslide susceptibility is just one of the three

components of landslide hazard (Guzzetti et al., 1999,

2005, 2006). In addition to landslide susceptibility, to

determine landslide hazard one has to ascertain the

temporal frequency (i.e., recurrence) of the landslides, and

the statistics of landslide size. These probabilistic

assessments are affected by errors which should be

identified and determined.

8. Conclusions

Fig. 13. Analysis of the effectiveness of the landslide susceptibility

classification.

landslide susceptibility assessments carried out in Italy

in the last 25 years. The acceptance criteria need to be

tested in other areas and by different investigators.

Depending on the geomorphological setting and the

complexity of a study area, other investigators may

select different thresholds.

The framework discussed for the evaluation of the

quality of a landslide susceptibility model considers the

most relevant sources of errors in a statistically based

susceptibility assessment, but other factors exist resulting

prepared, the availability of user-friendly GIS software

and of digital cartographic databases containing morphological, geological, land use and other environmental information has made it easy for geomorphologists to

obtain digital landslide susceptibility maps. These maps

attempt to zone an area based on the propensity of a

territory to produce new or reactivated landslides, and

they have proven to be very valuable for land use

planning, policymaking, and civil defence (Brabb,

1984; Varnes and IAEG, 1984; Guzzetti et al., 2000;

Glade et al., 2005). As in any other prediction, a

landslide susceptibility assessment requires proper

validation to ascertain its quality and prediction skills.

Unfortunately, inspection of the literature reveals that

as little use in science as in common life (Jollifee and

Stephenson, 2003). Landslide susceptibility assessments are no exception, and lack of proper verification

(or falsification) jeopardizes the use of a susceptibility

map. Indeed, if a geomorphologist cannot define the

reliability, robustness, degree of fitting and prediction

skill (i.e., the quality) of a susceptibility assessment,

why should a planner, policy-maker or civil defence

manager use the prediction?

In this paper, we have proposed a framework to

address this problem. The framework is based on a set of

tests and related acceptance criteria aimed at establishing and ranking the quality of a landslide susceptibility

assessment, including the degree of model fit, the

robustness of the model to changes in the input data, the

error associated with the probabilistic estimate, and the

model prediction skill. The proposed framework has

been successfully tested in the Collazzone area. The

experiment has demonstrated that adopting a simple,

statistical classification method applied to good-quality

data allows geomorphologists to prepare and validate a

landslide susceptibility model, at least for areas of the

size of the Collazzone study area. It remains to be

demonstrated if the same set of tests and related

acceptance criteria are applicable to larger areas,

extending for hundreds or even thousands of square

kilometres (e.g., Cardinali et al., 2002).

Two noteworthy improvements over existing landslide susceptibility modelling efforts have been

obtained. The first improvement consists of providing

an estimate of the error associated with the probability of

landslide spatial occurrence (i.e., susceptibility) obtained for each mapping unit in which a study area is

partitioned. This is particularly significant where

landslide susceptibility assessments are prepared to be

used for planning purposes or for establishing land use

regulations (Guzzetti et al., 2000). The second improvement consists of having established clearly defined

criteria and associated acceptance thresholds for determining and ranking the quality of a landslide susceptibility assessment. If adopted, the proposed framework

will provide for quantitative comparisons of the results

obtained by different investigators working in different

areas, and using different methods, to predict landslide

susceptibility. Ultimately, this will add to the credibility

of our products and the quality of our science.

Acknowledgements

Work supported by CNR-GNDCI (Publication Number 2893) and CNR-IRPI grants. We thank Earl E.

183

comments.

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