Using additional criteria for measuring the quality of predictions and their uncertainties in a digital soil mapping framework

B. Malone, J.J. de Gruijter, A.B. McBratney, B. Minasny, D.J. Brus

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20 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we introduce additional criteria to assess the quality of digital soil property maps. Soil map quality is estimated on the basis of validating both the accuracy of the predictions and their uncertainties (which are expressed as a prediction interval [PI]). The first criterion is an accuracy measure that is different in form to the usual mean square error (MSE) because it accounts also for the prediction uncertainties. This measure is the spatial average of the statistical expectation of the mean square error of a simulated random value (MSES). The second criterion addresses the quality of the uncertainties which is estimated as the total proportion of the study area where the (1-a)–PI covers the true value. Ideally, this areal proportion equals the nominal value (1 - a). In the Lower Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia, we used both criteria to validate a soil pH map using additional units collected from a probability sample at five depth intervals: 0 to 5, 5 to 15, 15 to 30, 30 to 60, and 60 to 100 cm. For the first depth interval (0–5 cm) in 96% of the area, the 95% PI of pH covered the true value. The root mean squared simulation error (RMSES) at this depth was 1.0 pH units. Generally, the discrepancy between the nominal value and the areal proportion in addition to the RMSES increased with soil depth, indicating largely a growing imprecision of the map and underestimation of the uncertainty with increasing soil depth. In exploring this result, conventional map quality indicators emphasized a combination of bias and imprecision particularly with increasing soil depth. There is great value in coupling conventional map quality indicators with those which we propose in this study as they target the decision making process for improving the precision of maps and their uncertainties. For our study area we discuss options for improving on our results in addition to determining the possibility of extending a similar sampling approach for which multiple soil property maps can be validated concurrently
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1032-1043
JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • continuous depth functions
  • fuzzy k-means
  • maps
  • extragrades
  • information


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