Soil moisture mapping in an arid area using a land unit area (LUA) sampling approach and geostatistical interpolation techniques

In ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information
Volume (Issue): 5 (3)
Peer-reviewed Article

Soil moisture (SM) plays a key role in many environmental processes and has a high spatial and temporal variability. Collecting sample SM data through field surveys (e.g. for validation of remote sensing-derived products) can be very expensive and time consuming if a study area is large, and producing accurate SM maps from the sample point data is a difficult task as well. In this study, geospatial processing techniques are used to combine several geo-environmental layers relevant to SM (soil, geology, rainfall, land cover etc.) into a land unit area (LUA) map, which delineates regions with relatively homogeneous geological/geomorphological, land use/land cover, and climate characteristics. This LUA map is used to guide the collection of sample SM data in the field, and the field data is finally spatially interpolated to create a wall-to-wall map of SM in the study area (Garmsar, Iran). The main goal of this research is to create a SM map in an arid area, using a land unit area (LUA) approach to obtain the most appropriate sample locations for collecting SM field data. Several environmental GIS layers which have an impact on SM were combined to generate an LUA map, and then field surveying was done in each class of the LUA map. A SM map was produced based on LUA, remote sensing data indexes and spatial interpolation of the field survey sample data, and several interpolation methods (inverse distance weighting, Kriging, and Co-Kriging) were evaluated for generating SM maps from the sample data. The produced maps were compared to each other and validated using ground truth data. The results show that the LUA approach is a reasonable method to create the homogenous field to introduce a representative sample for field soil surveying. The geostatistical SM map achieved adequate accuracy, however, trend analysis and distribution of the soil sample point locations within the LUA types should be further investigated to achieve even better results. Co-Kriging produced the most accurate SM map of study area.