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Select polygons within polygons using a single feature layer?

Question asked by ssienaert on Mar 11, 2019
Latest reply on Mar 12, 2019 by jborgion



I have a polygon feature layer containing approx. 2000 polygons. Hundreds of the polygons reside within other polygons and I want to use the smaller polygons to erase areas from the larger polygons. The erase tool is perfect for this, but I first need to create a separate layer of the smaller polygons to be used as the 'erase feature' in the erase tool. Unfortunately I am struggling to find a way to select the polygons that reside within other polygons because all of the polygons are from the same feature layer. Consequently, 'select by location' does not work as it requires separate input and target layers, and 'select by attributes' does not work because there are no defining attributes that distinguish between the polygons (e.g. selecting by size/area is not an option as the size range of the polygons I want to select overlaps considerably with the size of the polygons that I don't want to select). Is there a way to perform a spatial selection that selects features that are completely contained within other features when all features are within the same feature layer? 


(I am using ArcMap 10.6.1 and I have virtually no programming knowledge. Please note I am aware that a similar question was asked at How to detect polygon within a polygon in the same layer but the replies are not helpful in my case.)


I am grateful for any suggestions. Thank you very much.