Canadian Forest Service Publications

Generation of soil drainage equations from an artificial neural network-analysis approach. 2013. Zhao, Z.; MacLean, D.A.; Bourque, C.P.-A.; Swift, D.E.; Meng, F.-R. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 93(3): 329–342.

Year: 2013

Issued by: Atlantic Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 35315

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.4141/CJSS2012-079

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Soil properties, especially soil drainage, are known to be related to topo-hydrologic variables derived from digital elevation models (DEM), such as vertical slope position, slope steepness, sediment delivery ratio, and topographic wetness index. Such relationships typically are strongly non-linear and thus difficult to define with conventional statistical methods. In this study, we used artificial neural network (ANN) models to establish relationships between soil drainage classes and DEM-generated topo-hydrologic variables and subsequently formulated the relationships to generate soil drainage equations for soil mapping. A high-resolution field soil map of the Black Brook Watershed in northwest New Brunswick, Canada, was used to calibrate/validate the ANN models, and the obtained equations. Independent data from an experimental farm, about 180 km away, were also used for validation. Results indicated that vertical slope position was the best predictor of soil drainage classes (r = 0.55), followed by slope steepness (r = 0.44), sediment delivery ratio (r = 0.39), and topographic wetness index (r = 0.38). The obtained soil drainage equations fitted well to the ANN model predictions (r2 = 0.78-0.99; root mean squared error = 0.39-4.55). Analyses indicated that soil drainage equations clearly reflected the actual relationships between soil drainage classes and DEM-generated topo-hydrologic variables, and have the potential to minimize bias originated from over-training the ANN models when applied outside the area of calibration, especially when the ranges of input variables were outside of the range of calibration data.

Plain Language Summary

Soil drainage is important for good management of forests because it determines the occurrence and growth of trees, location of roads, and soil moisture for example. Obtaining soil drainage information for planning purposes in the field is extremely expensive and time consuming. This paper provides a method of determining soil drainage by using drainage classes and landscape features with a statistical method known as artificial neutral network (ANN). This statistical method can examine relationships between multi-variables in a similar fashion as the human brain and hence its name. Forest managers now can use vertical slope position, a common landscape feature, to predict soil drainage for forest management plans and decisions without the cost of extensive field measurements.