Quantifying soil carbon in temperate peatlands using a mid-IR soil spectral library

Helfenstein, Anatol; Baumann, Philipp; Viscarra Rossel, Raphael; Gubler, Andreas; Oechslin, Stefan; Six, Johan

Traditional laboratory methods for acquiring soil information remain important for assessing key soil properties, soil functions and ecosystem services over space and time. Infrared spectroscopic modeling can link and massively scale up these methods for many soil characteristics in a cost-effective and timely manner. In Switzerland, only 10 % to 15 % of agricultural soils have been mapped sufficiently to serve spatial decision support systems, presenting an urgent need for rapid quantitative soil characterization. The current Swiss soil spectral library (SSL; inline-formulan = 4374) in the mid-infrared range includes soil samples from the Biodiversity Monitoring Program (BDM), arranged in a regularly spaced grid across Switzerland, and temporally resolved data from the Swiss Soil Monitoring Network (NABO). Given that less than 2 % of the samples in the SSL originate from organic soils, we aimed to develop both an efficient calibration sampling scheme and accurate modeling strategy to estimate the soil carbon (SC) contents of heterogeneous samples between 0 and 2 m depth from 26 locations within two drained peatland regions (School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences (HAFL) data set; inline-formulan = 116). The focus was on minimizing the need for new reference analyses by efficiently mining the spectral information of the SSL.

We used partial least square regressions (PLSRs), together with five repetitions of a location-grouped, 10-fold cross-validation, to predict SC ranging from 1 % to 52 % in the local HAFL data set. We compared the validation performance of different calibration schemes involving local models (1), models using the entire SSL combined with local samples (2), commonly referred to as spiking, and subsets of local and SSL samples optimized for the peatland target sites using the resampling local (RS-LOCAL) algorithm (3). Using local and RS-LOCAL calibrations with at least five local samples, we achieved similar validation results for predictions of SC up to 52 % (inline-formulaR2 = 0.93 to 0.97; bias inline-formula= -0.07 to 1.65; root mean square error (RMSE) inline-formula= 2.71 % to 3.89 % total carbon; ratio of performance to deviation (RPD) inline-formula= 3.38 to 4.86; and ratio of performance to interquartile range (RPIQ) inline-formula= 4.93 to 7.09). However, calibrations using RS-LOCAL only required five or 10 local samples for very accurate models (RMSE inline-formula= 3.16 % and 2.71 % total carbon, respectively), while purely local calibrations required 50 samples for similarly accurate results (RMSE inline-formula< 3 % total carbon). Of the three approaches, the entire SSL spiked with local samples for model calibration led to validations with the lowest performance in terms of inline-formulaR2, bias, RMSE, RPD and RPIQ. Hence, we show that a simple and comprehensible modeling approach, using RS-LOCAL together with a SSL, is an efficient and accurate strategy when using infrared spectroscopy. It decreasespage194 field and laboratory work, the bias of SSL spiking approaches and the uncertainty of local models. If adequately mined, the information in the SSL is sufficient to predict SC in new and independent study regions, even if the local soil characteristics are very different from the ones in the SSL. This will help to efficiently scale up the acquisition of quantitative soil information over space and time.

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Helfenstein, Anatol / Baumann, Philipp / Viscarra Rossel, Raphael / et al: Quantifying soil carbon in temperate peatlands using a mid-IR soil spectral library. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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