University Of Tasmania

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Towards a framework for terrain attribute selection in environmental studies

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 00:36 authored by Lecours, V, Devillers, R, Simms, AE, Vanessa LucieerVanessa Lucieer, Brown, CJ
Terrain attributes (e.g. slope, rugosity) derived from digital terrain models are commonly used in environmental studies. The increasing availability of GIS tools that generate those attributes can lead users to select a sub-optimal combination of terrain attributes for their applications. Our objectives were to identify sets of terrain attributes that best capture terrain properties and to assess how they vary with surface complexity. 230 tools from 11 software packages were used to derive terrain attributes from nine surfaces of different topographic complexity levels. Covariation and independence of terrain attributes were explored using three multivariate statistical methods. Distinct groups of correlated terrain attributes were identified, and their importance in describing a surface varied with surface complexity. Terrain attributes were highly covarying and sometimes ambiguously defined within software documentation. We found that a combination of six to seven particular terrain attributes always captures more than 70% of the topographic structure of surfaces.


Publication title

Environmental Modelling and Software








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Elsevier Sci Ltd

Place of publication

The Boulevard, Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford, England, Oxon, Ox5 1Gb

Rights statement

Copyright 2016 Elsevier Ltd.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems