Towards an Assessment of the Ephemeral Gully Erosion Potential in Greece Using Google Earth

Gully erosion may cause considerable soil losses and produce large volumes of sediment. The aim of this study was to perform a preliminary assessment on the presence of ephemeral gullies in Greece by sampling representative cultivated fields in 100 sites randomly distributed throughout the country. The almost 30-ha sampling surfaces were examined with visual interpretation of multi-temporal imagery from the online Google Earth for the period 2002–2019. In parallel, rill and sheet erosion signs, land uses, and presence of terraces and other anti-erosion features, were recorded within every sample. One hundred fifty-three ephemeral gullies were identified in total, inside 22 examined agricultural surfaces. The mean length of the gullies was 55.6 m, with an average slope degree of 9.7%. Vineyards showed the largest proportion of gullies followed by olive groves and arable land, while pastures exhibited limited presence of gullies. Spatial clusters of high gully severity were observed in the north and east of the country. In 77% of the surfaces with gullies, there were no terraces, although most of these surfaces were situated in slopes higher than 8%. It was the first time to use visual interpretation with Google Earth image time-series on a country scale producing a gully erosion inventory. Soil conservation practices such as contour farming and terraces could mitigate the risk of gully erosion in agricultural areas