Influence of DEM Resolution on the Hydrological Responses of a Terraced Catchment: An Exploratory Modelling Approach

João Rocha, André Duarte, Sérgio Fabres, Ana Quintela, Dalila Serpa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
98 Downloads (Pure)


Terracing is widely used as an effective soil and water conservation practice in sloped terrains. Physically based hydrological models are useful tools for understanding the hydrological response of terraced catchments. These models typically require a DEM as input data, whose resolution is likely to influence the model accuracy. The main objective of the present work was to investigate how DEM resolution affects the accuracy of terrain representations and consequently the performance of SWAT hydrological model in simulating streamflow for a terraced eucalypt-dominated catchment (Portugal). Catchment´s hydrological responses were analyzed based on two contrasting topographic scenarios: terraces and no terrace, to evaluate the influence of terraces. To this end, different SWAT models were set up using multi-resolution DEMs (10 m, 1 m, 0.5 m, 0.25 m and 0.10 m) based on photogrammetric techniques and LiDAR data. LiDAR-derived DEMs (terraces scenario) improved topographic surface and watershed representation, consequently increasing the model performance, stage hydrographs and flow-duration curves accuracy. When comparing the contrasting topographic scenarios, SWAT simulations without terraces (10 m and 1 m DEMs) produced a more dynamic and rapid hydrological response. In this scenario, the streamflow was 28% to 36% higher than SWAT simulations accounting for the terraces, which corroborates the effectiveness of terraces as a water conservation practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number169
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • forest catchment
  • forest ecohydrological modelling
  • forest hydrology
  • LiDAR-derived DEMs
  • SWAT model
  • terraces


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