21 Apr 2022
21 Apr 2022

Delineating the distribution of mineral and peat soils at the landscape scale in northern boreal regions

Anneli M. Ågren1, Eliza Maher Hasselquist1, Johan Stendahl2, Mats B. Nilsson1, and Siddhartho S. Paul1 Anneli M. Ågren et al.
  • 1Department of Forest Ecology and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Science, Umeå, SE-90187, Sweden
  • 2Department of Soil and Environment, Swedish University of Agricultural Science, Uppsala, SE-756 51, Sweden

Abstract. A critical tool to succeed in sustainable spatial planning is accurate and detailed maps. To meet the sustainable development goals and enable sustainable management and protection of peatlands, there is a strong need for improving the mapping of peatlands. Here we present a novel approach to identify peat soils based on a high-resolution digital soil moisture map that was produced by combining airborne laser scanning-derived terrain indices and machine learning to model soil moisture at 2 m spatial resolution across the Swedish landscape with high accuracy (Kappa = 0.69, MCC = 0.68). As soil moisture is a key factor in peat formation, we fitted an empirical relationship between the thickness of the organic layer (measured at 5 479 soil plots across the country) and the continuous SLU soil moisture map (R2 = 0.66, p < 0.001). We generated categorical maps of peat occurrence using three different definitions of peat (30, 40 and 50 cm thickness of the organic layer) and a continuous map of organic layer thickness. The predicted peat maps had a higher overall quality (MCC = 0.69–0.73) compared to traditional quaternary deposits maps (MCC = 0.65) and topographical maps (MCC = 0.61) and captured the peatlands with a recall of ca 80 % compared to 50–70 % on the traditional maps. The predicted peat maps identified more peatland area than previous maps, and the areal coverage estimates fell within the same order as upscaling estimates from national field surveys. Our method was able to identify smaller peatlands resulting in more accurate maps of peat soils, which was not restricted to only large peatlands visible from airplanes – the historical approach of mapping. Most importantly we also provided a continuous map of the organic layer, which ranged 6–95 cm organic layer thickness, with an R2 of 0.67 and RMSE of 19 cm. The continuous map exhibits a smooth transition of organic layers from mineral soil to peat soils and likely provides a more natural representation of the distribution of soils. The continuous map also provides an intuitive uncertainty estimate in the delineation of peat soils, critically useful for sustainable spatial planning, e.g. green-house gas or biodiversity inventories and landscape ecological research.

Anneli M. Ågren et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • EC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-79', David Dunkerley, 28 Jun 2022
    • AC1: 'Reply on EC1', Anneli Ågren, 27 Sep 2022
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-79', Anonymous Referee #1, 16 Aug 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC1', Anneli Ågren, 27 Sep 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-79', Anonymous Referee #2, 23 Aug 2022
    • AC3: 'Reply on RC2', Anneli Ågren, 27 Sep 2022

Anneli M. Ågren et al.

Anneli M. Ågren et al.


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Short summary
Historically, many peatlands in the boreal region have been drained for timber production. Given the prospects of a drier future due to climate change, wetland restorations are now increasing. Better maps hold the key to insights into restoration targets and land-use management policies, and maps are often the no 1 decision-support tool. Here we use an AI developed soil moisture map based on laser scanning data to illustrate how the mapping of peatlands can be improved across an entire nation.