Quantification and depth distribution analysis of carbon to nitrogen ratio in forest soils using reflectance spectroscopy

Asa Gholizadeh*, Mohammadmehdi Saberioon, Nastaran Pouladi, Eyal Ben-Dor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Forest soils have large contents of carbon (C) and total nitrogen (TN), which have significant spatial variability laterally across landscapes and vertically with depth due to decomposition, erosion and leaching. Therefore, the ratio of C to TN contents (C:N), a crucial indicator of soil quality and health, is also different depending on soil horizon. These attributes can cost-effectively and rapidly be estimated using visible–near infrared–shortwave infrared (VNIR–SWIR) spectroscopy. Nevertheless, the effect of different soil layers, particularly over large scales of highly heterogeneous forest soils, on the performance of the technique has rarely been attempted. This study evaluated the potential of VNIR–SWIR spectroscopy in quantification and variability analysis of C:N in soils from different organic and mineral layers of forested sites of the Czech Republic. At each site, we collected samples from the litter (L), fragmented (F) and humus (H) organic layers, and from the A1 (depth of 2–10 cm) and A2 (depth of 10–40 cm) mineral layers providing a total of 2505 samples. Support vector machine regression (SVMR) was used to train the prediction models of the selected attributes at each individual soil layer and the merged layer (profile). We further produced the spatial distribution maps of C:N as the target attribute at each soil layer. Results showed that the prediction accuracy based on the profile spectral data was adequate for all attributes. Moreover, F was the most accurately predicted layer, regardless of the soil attribute. C:N models and maps in the organic layers performed well although in mineral layers, models were poor and maps were reliable only in areas with low and moderate C:N. On the other hand, the study indicated that reflectance spectra could efficiently predict and map organic layers of the forested sites. Although, in mineral layers, high values of C:N (≥ 50) were not detectable in the map created based on the reflectance spectra. In general, the study suggests that VNIR–SWIR spectroscopy has the feasibility of modelling and mapping C:N in soil organic horizons based on national spectral data in the forests of the Czech Republic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-124
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Soil and Water Conservation Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2023


FundersFunder number
Grantová Agentura České Republiky18-28126Y


    • C:N
    • Forest soil
    • Soil horizons
    • Soil organic carbon
    • VNIR–SWIR spectroscopy


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