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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Assessing the capability of Sentinel-2 time-series to estimate soil organic carbon and clay content at local scale in croplands

Castaldi, Fabio; Koparan, Muhammed Halil; Wetterlind, Johanna; Zydelis, Renaldas; Vinci, Italina; Savas, Ayse Ozge; Kivrak, Cantekin; Tuncay, Tuelay; Volungevicius, Jonas; Obber, Silvia; Ragazzi, Francesca; Malo, Douglas; Vaudour, Emmanuelle


The use of remote sensing data methods is affordable for the mapping of soil properties of the plowed layer over croplands. Carried out in the framework of the ongoing STEROPES project of the European Joint H2020 Program SOIL, this work is focused on the feasibility of Sentinel-2 based approaches for the high resolution mapping of topsoil clay and organic carbon (SOC) contents at the within-farm or within-field scales, for cropland sites of contrasted climates and soil types across the Northern hemisphere. Four pixelwise temporal mosaicking methods, using a two years-Sentinel-2 time series and several spectral indices (NDVI, NBR2, BSI, S2WI), were developed and compared for i) pure bare soil condition (maxBSI), ii) driest soil condition (minS2WI), iii) average bare soil condition (Median) and iv) dry soil conditions excluding extreme reflectance values (R90). Three spectral modeling approaches, using the Sentinel-2 bands of the output temporal mosaics as covariates, were tested and compared: (i) Quantile Regression Forest (QRF) algorithm; (ii) QRF adding longitude and latitude as covariates (QRFxy); (iii) a hybrid approach, Linear Mixed Effect Model (LMEM), that includes spatial autocorrelation of the soil properties. We tested pairs of mosaic and spectral approaches on ten sites in Turkiye, Italy, Lithuania, and USA where soil samples were collected and SOC and clay content were measured in the lab. The average RPIQ of the best performances among the test sites was 2.50 both for SOC (RMSE = 0.15%) and clay (RMSE = 3.3%). Both accuracy level and uncertainty were mainly influenced by site characteristics of cloud frequency, soil types and management. Generally, the models including a spatial component (QRFxy and LMEM) were the best performing, while the best spatial mosaicking approaches mostly were Median and R90. The most frequent optimal combination of mosaicking and model type was Median or R90 and QRFxy for SOC, and R90 and LMEM for clay estimation.


Soil organic carbon; Clay; Local scale; Sentinel2; Time -series; Temporal mosaics; Uncertainty

Published in

ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
2023, Volume: 199, pages: 40-60
Publisher: ELSEVIER

    SLU Authors

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Remote Sensing
    Soil Science

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