The main goal of this work was to identify the areas that are most susceptible to desertification in a part of the Algerian steppe, and to quantitatively assess the key factors that contribute to this desertification. In total, 139 desertified zones were mapped using field surveys and photo-interpretation. We selected 16 spectral and geomorphic predictive factors, which a priori play a significant role in desertification. They were mainly derived from Landsat 8 imagery and Shuttle Radar Topographic Mission digital elevation model (SRTM DEM). Some factors, such as the topographic position index (TPI) and curvature, were used for the first time in this kind of study. For this purpose, we adapted the logistic regression algorithm for desertification susceptibility mapping, which has been widely used for landslide susceptibility mapping. The logistic model was evaluated using the area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve. The model accuracy was 87.8%. We estimated the model uncertainties using a bootstrap method. Our analysis suggests that the predictive model is robust and stable. Our results indicate that land cover factors, including normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and rangeland classes, play a major role in determining desertification occurrence, while geomorphological factors have a limited impact. The predictive map shows that 44.57% of the area is classified as highly to very highly susceptible to desertification. The developed approach can be used to assess desertification in areas with similar characteristics and to guide possible actions to combat desertification.
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