Canadian Forest Service Publications

Digital soil mapping workflow for forest resource applications: a case study in the Hearst Forest, Ontario. Blackford, C., Heung, B., Baldwin, K., Fleming, R.L., Hazlett, P.W., Morris, D.M., Uhlig, P.W.C., Webster, K.L., NRC Research Press (2020) 00: 1-19

Year: 2020

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 40387

Language: English

Series: Miscellaneous Report (GLFC - Sault Ste. Marie)

Availability: PDF (download)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1139/cjfr-2020-0066

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Plain Language Summary

Accurate soil information is critically important for forest management planning and operations but is challenging to map. Digital soil mapping (DSM) improves upon the limitations of conventional soil mapping by explicitly linking a variety of environmental data layers to spatial soil point data sets to continuously predict soil variability across a landscape. Thus far, much DSM research has focused on the development of ultrafine-resolution soil maps within agricultural systems; however, increasing availability of light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data presents new opportunities to apply DSM to support forest resource applications at multiple scales. This project describes a DSM workflow using LiDAR-derived elevation data and machine learning models (MLMs) to predict key forest soil attributes. A case study in the Hearst Forest in northeastern Ontario, Canada, is used to illustrate the workflow. We applied multiple MLMs to the Hearst Forest to predict soil moisture regime and textural class. Both qualitative and quantitative assessment pointed to the random forest MLM producing the best maps (63% accuracy for moisture regime and 66% accuracy for textural class). Where error occurred, soils were typically misclassified to neighboring classes. This standardized, flexible workflow is a valuable tool for practitioners that want to undertake DSM as part of forest resource management and planning.