Imaging Spectroscopy for Soil Mapping and Monitoring

S. Chabrillat*, E. Ben-Dor, J. Cierniewski, C. Gomez, T. Schmid, B. van Wesemael

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


There is a renewed awareness of the finite nature of the world’s soil resources, growing concern about soil security and significant uncertainties about the carrying capacity of the planet. Regular assessments of soil conditions from local through to global scales are requested, and there is a clear demand for accurate, up-to-date and spatially referenced soil information by the modelling scientific community, farmers and land users, and policy- and decision-makers. Soil and imaging spectroscopy, based on visible–near-infrared and shortwave infrared (400–2500 nm) spectral reflectance, has been shown to be a proven method for the quantitative prediction of key soil surface properties. With the upcoming launch of the next generation of hyperspectral satellite sensors in the next years, a high potential to meet the demand for global soil mapping and monitoring is appearing. In this paper, we briefly review the basic concepts of soil spectroscopy with a special attention to the effects of soil roughness on reflectance and then provide a review of state of the art, achievements and perspectives in soil mapping and monitoring based on imaging spectroscopy from air- and spaceborne sensors. Selected application cases are presented for the modelling of soil organic carbon, mineralogical composition, topsoil water content and characterization of soil crust, soil erosion and soil degradation stages based on airborne and simulated spaceborne imaging spectroscopy data. Further, current challenges, gaps and new directions toward enhanced soil properties modelling are presented. Overall, this paper highlights the potential and limitations of multiscale imaging spectroscopy nowadays for soil mapping and monitoring, and capabilities and requirements of upcoming spaceborne sensors as support for a more informed and sustainable use of our world’s soil resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-399
Number of pages39
JournalSurveys in Geophysics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2019


  • Hyperspectral
  • Imaging spectroscopy
  • Soil mapping and monitoring
  • Soil mineralogical composition
  • Soil moisture
  • Soil organic carbon
  • Spaceborne instruments
  • Surface roughness
  • Vegetation cover


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