Land subsidence in Chiayi, Taiwan, from compaction well, leveling and ALOS/PALSAR: Aquaculture-induced relative sea level rise

Wei Chia Hung, Chein-way Hwang*, Yi An Chen, Lei Zhang, Kuan Hung Chen, Shiang Hung Wei, Da Ren Huang, Shu Han Lin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Chiayi County is located in the largest alluvial plain of Taiwan with extensive aquaculture and rice farming sustained by water extracted from groundwater wells. Chiayi is a typical aquaculture area affected by land subsidence, yet such lands worldwide combine to provide nearly 90% of global aquaculture products, greatly reducing oceanic overfishing problems. This study uses precision leveling, multi-layer compaction monitoring well (MLCW) and spaceborne SAR interferometry (InSAR) to examine the cause and effect of land subsidence in Chiayi associated with groundwater extractions and changes. Heights at benchmarks in a leveling network are measured annually and soil compactions at 24-26 layers up to 300-m depths at 7 MLCWs are collected at one-month intervals. Over 2007-2011, 15 ALOS/PALSAR images are processed by the method of TCPInSAR to produce subsidence rates. All sensors show that land subsidence occur in most parts of Chiayi, with rates reaching 4.5 cm/year around its coast, a result of groundwater pumping from shallow to deep aquifers. MLCWs detect mm-accuracy seasonal soil compactions coinciding with groundwater level fluctuations and causing dynamic compactions. Compactions near Taiwan High Speed Rail may reduce the strength of the rail's supporting columns to degrade its safety. The SAR images yield subsidence rates consistent with those from leveling and compaction wells after corrections for systematic errors by the leveling result. Subsidence in Chiayi's coastal area leads to relative sea level rises at rates up to 15 times larger than the global eustatic sea level rising rate, a risk typical for world's aquaculture-rich regions. At the fish pond-covered Budai Township, InSAR identifies subsidence spots not detected by leveling, providing crucial geo-information for a sustainable land management for aquaculture industry.

Original languageEnglish
Article number40
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Aquaculture
  • Chiayi
  • Compaction well
  • Land subsidence
  • Precision leveling
  • Relative sea level rise


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