Mapping Soil Organic Carbon Resources Across Agricultural Land Uses in Highland Lesotho Using High Resolution Satellite Imagery

Friday, 18 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Jasper Knight and Elhadi Adam, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Mapping spatial patterns of soil organic carbon (SOC) using high resolution satellite imagery is especially important in inaccessible or upland areas that have limited field measurements, where land use and land cover (LULC) are changing rapidly, or where the land surface is sensitive to overgrazing and high rates of soil erosion and thus sediment, nutrient and carbon export. Here we outline the methods and results of mapping soil organic carbon in highland areas (~2400 m) of eastern Lesotho, southern Africa, across different land uses. Bedrock summit areas with very thin soils are dominated by xeric alpine grassland; terrace agriculture with strip fields and thicker soils is found within river valleys. Multispectral Worldview 2 imagery was used to map LULC across the region. An overall accuracy of 88% and kappa value of 0.83 were achieved using a support vector machine model. Soils were examined in the field from different LULC areas for properties such as soil depth, maturity and structure. In situ soils in the field were also evaluated using a portable analytical spectral device (ASD) in order to ground truth spectral signatures from Worldview. Soil samples were examined in the lab for chemical properties including organic carbon. Regression modeling was used in order to establish a relationship between soil characteristics and soil spectral reflectance. We were thus able to map SOC across this diverse landscape. Results show that there are notable differences in SOC between upland and agricultural areas which reflect both soil thickness and maturity, and land use practices such as manuring of fields by cattle. Soil erosion and thus carbon (nutrient) export is significant issue in this region, which this project will now be examining.