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Title: Modelling soil bulk density using data-mining and expert knowledge
Author: Taalab, Khaled Paul
Awarding Body: Cranfield University
Current Institution: Cranfield University
Date of Award: 2013
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Data about the spatial variation of soil attributes is required to address a great number of environmental issues, such as improving water quality, flood mitigation, and determining the effects of the terrestrial carbon cycle. The need for a continuum of soils data is problematic, as it is only possible to observe soil attributes at a limited number of locations, beyond which, prediction is required. There is, however, disparity between the way in which much of the existing information about soil is recorded and the format in which the data is required. There are two primary methods of representing the variation in soil properties, as a set of distinct classes or as a continuum. The former is how the variation in soils has been recorded historically by the soil survey, whereas the latter is how soils data is typically required. One solution to this issue is to use a soil-landscape modelling approach which relates the soil to the wider landscape (including topography, land-use, geology and climatic conditions) using a statistical model. In this study, the soil-landscape modelling approach has been applied to the prediction of soil bulk density (Db). The original contribution to knowledge of the study is demonstrating that producing a continuous surface of Db using a soil-landscape modelling approach is that a viable alternative to the ‘classification’ approach which is most frequently used. The benefit of this method is shown in relation to the prediction of soil carbon stocks, which can be predicted more accurately and with less uncertainty. The second part of this study concerns the inclusion of expert knowledge within the soil-landscape modelling approach. The statistical modelling approaches used to predict Db are data driven, hence it is difficult to interpret the processes which the model represents. In this study, expert knowledge is used to predict Db within a Bayesian network modelling framework, which structures knowledge in terms of probability. This approach creates models which can be more easily interpreted and consequently facilitate knowledge discovery, it also provides a method for expert knowledge to be used as a proxy for empirical data. The contribution to knowledge of this section of the study is twofold, firstly, that Bayesian networks can be used as tools for data-mining to predict a continuous soil attribute such as Db and that in lieu of data, expert knowledge can be used to accurately predict landscape-scale trends in the variation of Db using a Bayesian modelling approach.
Supervisor: Corstanje, R.; Whelan, Michael; Creamer, Rachel E. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Bayesian networks ; Random Forest ; Artificial Neural Networks ; Carbon Stocks ; Elicitation ; Soil Taxonomy ; Legacy Data