EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Observation and Reporting of Landforms and Landscape Dynamics by Citizens

Daniel Hölbling, Sabine Hennig, Lorena Abad, Simon Ecke, and Dirk Tiede
Daniel Hölbling et al.
  • University of Salzburg, Department of Geoinformatics - Z_GIS, Salzburg, Austria (

The observation and reporting of flora and fauna with the help of citizen scientists has a long tradition. However, citizen science projects have also a high potential for the reporting and mapping of landforms, as well as for observing landscape dynamics. While remote sensing has opened up new mapping and monitoring possibilities at high spatial and temporal resolutions, there is still a growing demand for gathering (spatial) data directly in the field (reporting on actual events, landform characteristics, and landscape changes, provision of reference data and photos). This becomes even more relevant since climate change effects (e.g. glacier retreat, shift of precipitation regime, melting of permafrost) will likely result in more significant morphological changes with an impact on the landscape.

In the project citizenMorph (Observation and Reporting of Landscape Dynamics by Citizens; we developed a pilot web-based interactive application that allows and supports citizens to map and contribute field data (spatial data, in-situ information, geotagged photos) on landforms. Such features are, for example, mass movements (e.g. rockfall, landslide, debris flow), glacial features (e.g. rock glacier, moraine, drumlin), volcanic features (e.g. lava flow, lahar, mudpot), or coastal features (e.g. cliff, coastal erosion, skerry). To design and implement a system that fully matches experts’ and citizens’ requirements, that ensures that citizens benefit from participating in citizenMorph, and that provides extensive, high-quality data, citizen representatives (mainly high school students, students, and seniors) actively and directly took part in the development process. These users are considered as particularly critical, sensitive to usability and accessibility issues, and demanding when it comes to using information and communication technology (ICT). In line with the concept of participatory design, citizen representatives were involved in all steps of the development process: specification of requirements, design, implementation, and testing of the system. The generation of a pilot was done using Survey123 for ArcGIS, a survey to collect data in the field, i.e. type and location of the landform, overview image and image series of the landform, and the content management system WordPress to create a website to inform, guide and support the participants. Throughout the survey ( and the website, different kinds of information (e.g. project information, guidelines for data collection and reporting, data protection information) are given to the participants. The final citizenMorph system was tested and discussed on several events with citizen representatives in Austria, Germany, and Iceland. Feedback from the tests was gathered using techniques such as observation, focus groups, and interviews/questionnaires. This allowed us to evaluate and improve the system as a whole.

The collected data, particularly the image series, are used for 3D reconstruction of the surface using Structure from Motion (SfM) and dense image matching (DIM) methods. Moreover, the collected data can be helpful for enriching and validating remote sensing based mapping results and increasing their detail and information content. Having a comprehensive database, holding field data and remote sensing data together, is of importance for any subsequent analysis and for broadening our knowledge about geomorphological landscape dynamics and the prevalence of landforms.

How to cite: Hölbling, D., Hennig, S., Abad, L., Ecke, S., and Tiede, D.: Observation and Reporting of Landforms and Landscape Dynamics by Citizens, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-13593,, 2020


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