Structure from Motion as a Viable Tool for Quantifying Diffuse Post-Fire Erosion

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date



College of Arts and Sciences



Faculty Sponsor

Jennifer Pierce


Idaho’s 2016 Pioneer Fire burned approximately 188,000 acres in the Boise National Forest. Post-wildfire landscapes experience increased erosion with peak erosion rates occurring in the first year following the fire (Robichaud et al., 2016).

Quantifying the volume of sediment removed during this vulnerable time period is challenging and has largely consisted of determining minimum sediment volumes from debris flow deposition. Few studies have included diffuse erosion from the hillslopes due to the difficult nature of obtaining such measurements.

As part of a larger investigation of total post-Pioneer Fire erosion in a catchment of Clear Creek, we seek to develop a method for determining the volume of material removed from the hillslope by diffuse mechanisms. Using mm-scale digital surface models (DSMs) constructed with handheld Structure from Motion (SfM) photogrammetry, we model pre-erosion surfaces for 12 randomly selected 1 m2 hillslope plots. The volume of eroded sediment for each plot is derived from the difference between the pre-erosion model and the post-erosion DSM.

Our results suggest that low-cost SfM photogrammetry is an appropriate tool for quantitative analysis of diffuse hillslope erosion following wildfire. However, additional research is required to fully develop the methodology for pre-erosion surface modeling.

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