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In The Science of the total environment ; h5-index 0.0

Precise and spatially explicit regional estimates of soil salinity are necessary to efficiently management and utilise limited land and water resources. Despite advances achieved in remote sensing over the past century, knowledge about the distribution and severity of soil salinization in economically important areas, such as oasis agroecosystems and desert-oasis ecotones (OADoE), is currently limited. An example of an area is southern Xinjiang, where the OADoE has a high anthropogenic influence. This study was conducted with the aim of mapping soil salinity in typical OADoE using remote sensing and machine learning techniques (Cubist and Random Forest, RF). A range of covariates was obtained from the multi-temporal Landsat-8 operational land imager (OLI) satellite for the period from 2013 to 2018. The values of coefficients of determination (R2), Lin's concordance correlation coefficient, root mean square error, and relative root mean squared error values, were 0.78, 0.87, 9.59, and 0.76, respectively, for the Cubist and 0.78, 0.86, 9.79, and 0.78, respectively, for RF models. The slope of the linear fitting equation was higher for the Cubist model (0.75) than for RF (0.69). The explanatory power of Cubist and RF for soil salinity variation were 33.22% and 31.41% in the agroecosystem, and 72.25% and 71.66% in desert-oasis ecotone, respectively. For the agroecosystem, the range of the predicted values for 89.13% (Cubist) and 84.78% (RF) of sample was controlled within the same observational range at an interval of 0-5 dS m-1. Compared to single-year data (from 2013 to 2018), the ability to account for model spatial variability in soil salinity based on multi-year Landsat images was increased by 16%-35%. According to the variable importance evaluation, soil-related indices are the most important predictor variables, followed by vegetation, topography, landform, and land use, with relative importance values of 60%, 21%, 16%, and 3%, respectively. The predicted map was also broadly consistent with those obtained for Xinjiang in the Harmonized World Soil Database (HWSD) from the second national soil survey of China conducted from 1984 to 1997. The results also showed that the average value of the study area is 8.10 dS m-1 based on the Cubist-based map whereas that of the HWSD is 10.60 dS m-1, this implied that the overall salinity level has reduced by 23.58%. The methodological framework presented covers all prediction process steps and has considerable potential to be used in future soil salinity mapping at large scales for other similar region as OADoEs. The map derived from the Cubist/RF model revealed more detailed variation information about spatial distribution of the soil salinity compared to HWSD, and can further assist with decision-making when planning and utilising on existing soil and water resources in OADoEs.

Wei Yang, Shi Zhou, Biswas Asim, Yang Shengtian, Ding Jianli, Wang Fei


Digital soil mapping, Harmonized world Soil Database, Machine learning, Soil salinity, Tarim Basin