UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Assessing Soil Prediction Distributions for Forest Management Using Digital Soil Mapping Gavilán-Acuna, Gonzalo; Coops, Nicholas C.; Olmedo, Guillermo F.; Tompalski, Piotr; Roeser, Dominik; Varhola, Andrés


Texture, soil organic matter (SOM), and soil depth (SoD) are crucial properties in forest management because they can supply spatial information on forest site productivity and guide fertilizer applications. However, soil properties possess an inherent uncertainty that must be mapped to enhance decision making in management applications. Most digital soil mapping predictions primarily concentrate on the mean of the distribution, often neglecting the estimation of local uncertainty in soil properties. Additionally, there is a noticeable scarcity of practical soil examples to demonstrate the prediction uncertainty for the benefit of forest managers. In this study, following a digital soil mapping (DSM) approach, a Quantile Regression Forest (QRF) model was developed to generate high-resolution maps and their uncertainty regarding the texture, SoD, and SOM, which were expressed as standard deviation (Sd) values. The results showed that the SOM (R² = 0.61, RMSE = 2.03% and with an average Sd = 50%), SoD (R2 = 0.74 and RMSE = 19.4 cm), clay (R² = 0.63, RMSE = 10.5% and average Sd = 29%), silt (R² = 0.59, RMSE = 6.26% and average Sd = 33%), and sand content (R² = 0.55, RMSE = 9.49% and average Sd = 35%) were accurately estimated for forest plantations in central south Chile. A practical demonstration of precision fertilizer application, utilizing the predictive distribution of SOM, effectively showcased how uncertainty in soil attributes can be leveraged to benefit forest managers. This approach holds potential for optimizing resource allocation and maximizing economic benefits.

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