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Title: 3D advance mapping of soil properties
Author: Veronesi, Fabio
ISNI:       0000 0004 2730 977X
Awarding Body: Cranfield University
Current Institution: Cranfield University
Date of Award: 2012
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Soil is extremely important for providing food, biomass and raw materials, water and nutrient storage; supporting biodiversity and providing foundations for man-made structures. However, its health is threatened by human activities, which can greatly affect the potential of soils to fulfil their functions and, consequently, result in environmental, economic and social damage. These issues require the characterisation of the impact and spatial extent of the problems. This can be achieved through the creation of detailed and comprehensive soil maps that describe both the spatial and vertical variability of key soil properties. Detailed three-dimensional (3D) digital soil maps can be readily used and embedded into environmental models. Three-dimensional soil mapping is not a new concept. However, only with the recent development of more powerful computers has it become feasible to undertake such data processing. Common techniques to estimate soil properties in the three-dimensional space include geostatistical interpolation, or a combination of depth functions and geostatistics. However, these two methods are both partially flawed. Geostatistical interpolation and kriging in particular, estimate soil properties in unsampled locations using a weighted average of the nearby observations. In order to produce the best possible estimate, this form of interpolation minimises the variance of each weighted average, thus decreasing the standard deviation of the estimates, compared to the soil observations. This appears as a smoothing effect on the data and, as a consequence, kriging interpolation is not reliable when the dataset is not sampled with a sampling designs optimised for geostatistics. Depth function approaches, as they are generally applied in literature, implement a spline regression of the soil profile data that aims to better describe the changes of the soil properties with depth. Subsequently, the spline is resampled at determined depths and, for each of these depths, a bi-dimensional (2D) geostatistical interpolation is performed. Consequently, the 3D soil model is a combination of a series of bi-dimensional slices. This approach can effectively decrease or eliminate any smoothing issues, but the way in which the model is created, by combining several 2D horizontal slices, can potentially lead to erroneous estimations. The fact that the geostatistical interpolation is performed in 2D implies that an unsampled location is estimated only by considering values at the same depth, thus excluding the vertical variability from the mapping, and potentially undermining the accuracy of the method. For these reasons, the literature review identified a clear need for developing, a new method for accurately estimating soil properties in 3D – the target of this research, The method studied in this thesis explores the concept of soil specific depth functions, which are simple mathematical equations, chosen for their ability to describe the general profile pattern of a soil dataset. This way, fitting the depth function to a particular sample becomes a diagnostic tool. If the pattern shown in a particular soil profile is dissimilar to the average pattern described by the depth function, it means that in that region there are localised changes in the soil profiles, and these can be identified from the goodness of fit of the function. This way, areas where soil properties have a homogeneous profile pattern can be easily identified and the depth function can be changed accordingly. The application of this new mapping technique is based on the geostatistical interpolation of the depth function coefficients across the study area. Subsequently, the equation is solved for each interpolated location to create a 3D lattice of soil properties estimations. For this way of mapping, this new methodology was denoted as top-down mapping method. The methodology was assessed through three case studies, where the top-down mapping method was developed, tested, and validated. Three datasets of diverse soil properties and at different spatial extents were selected. The results were validated primarily using cross-validation and, when possible, by comparing the estimates with independently sampled datasets (independent validation). In addition, the results were compared with estimates obtained using established literature methods, such as 3D kriging interpolation and the spline approach, in order to define some basic rule of application. The results indicate that the top-down mapping method can be used in circumstances where the soil profiles present a pattern that can be described by a function with maximum three coefficients. If this condition is met, as it was with key soil properties during the research, the top-down mapping method can be used for obtaining reliable estimates at different spatial extents.
Supervisor: Mayr, T. ; Corstanje, Ronald Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: digital soil mapping ; geostatistics ; kriging ; depth function ; soil compaction ; soil texture ; soil carbon ; soil bulk density ; soil carbon stock