Geomorphometric segmentation of complex slope elements to improve soil mapping in southeast Brazil

Marques, K., J.A. Demattê, B.A. Miller, and I. Lepsch. Geomorphometric segmentation of complex slope elements to improve soil mapping in southeast Brazil. Geoderma Regional 14: e00175. doi: 10.1016/j.geodrs.2018.e00175.


Hillslope elements have considerable potential in predicting soil properties and types in the landscape, making them likely to be a useful basis for detailed soil mapping. The goal of this research was to apply a previously developed digital hillslope position (DHP) model, calibrate it as needed to a Brazilian landscape, and test its utility as a basis for identification of detailed soil map units. The study area covers 2500 ha and is located on the border between the municipalities of Piracicaba and Santa Bárbara d’Oeste, São Paulo state, Brazil. A digital elevation model, with spatial resolution of 5 m, was used to obtain slope gradient, profile curvature and relative elevation with different analysis scales. Hierarchical rules for these digital terrain derivatives were used to segment the landscape into hillslope positions. The user-calibrated hillslope position model was verified against local experience by identifying the hillslope position in the field and comparing it with the model classification using the Kappa statistic and a confusion matrix. Soil samples were collected across multiple hillslopes with different lithologies. The samples were analyzed for chemical composition and soil particle size separates. The measured soil properties were assessed for statistical significance by variance analysis among hillslope position, parent material, and the interaction between the two. Student’s t-tests were performed iteratively across each hillslope position within a given parent material to identify specifically which soil properties were significantly different among the hillslope position map units. Variance analysis of soil samples located within the respective parent material map units identified significant differences for all soil properties measured, but only for some soil properties when categorized by DHP. Focusing on the parent material with a sufficient quantity of samples, there was always at least one hillslope position that was significantly different from the others for each soil property. Because each of these map units presented a significant difference in at least one soil property, they are useful for detailed soil mapping.

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