Potentiality of laboratory visible and near infrared spectroscopy for determining clay content in forest soil: a case study from high forest beech (fagus sylvatica) in Calabria (southern Italy)


  • Massimo Conforti CNR - Istituto per Sistemi Agricoli e Forestali del Mediterraneo (ISAFOM), Rende (CS)
  • Raffaele Froio CNR - Istituto per Sistemi Agricoli e Forestali del Mediterraneo (ISAFOM), Rende (CS)
  • Giorgio Matteucci CNR - Istituto per Sistemi Agricoli e Forestali del Mediterraneo (ISAFOM), Rende (CS)
  • Tommaso Caloiero CNR - Istituto per Sistemi Agricoli e Forestali del Mediterraneo (ISAFOM), Rende (CS)
  • Gabriele Buttafuoco CNR - Istituto per Sistemi Agricoli e Forestali del Mediterraneo (ISAFOM), Rende (CS)




soil clay content, Vis-NIR spectroscopy, PLSR, ordinary kriging, southern Italy


Clay content is the most important textural fraction because affects soil fertility and productivity.

Reflectance spectroscopy in the visible and near infrared (Vis-NIR, 350-2500 nm) spectral region could be an alternative to laboratory standard methods.

This paper was aimed to develop a calibration model with laboratory-based soil Vis-NIR spectra for clay content determination and mapping clay content using a geostatistical approach.

Soil samples were collected at 235 locations in a forest area of southern Italy and analyzed in laboratory for clay content and Vis-NIR spectroscopic measurements.

Partial least squared regression (PLSR) was applied to establish a relationships between reflectance and clay content. Calibration model was developed using only 175 samples, while the remaining 60 samples were used for testing the model. The results of PLSR were satisfactory and ordinary kriging was used for spatial interpolation of clay content determined both using conventional method and the PLSR model.


AÏCHI H., FOUAD Y., WALTER C., VISCARRA ROSSEL R.A., ZOHRA LILI CHABAANE, MUSTAPHA SANAA (2009) Regional predictions of soil organic carbon content from spectral reflectance measurements. Biosystems Engineering 104:442-446.

ARSSA (2003) Carta dei suoli della regione Calabria — scala 1:250000. Monografia divulgativa. ARSSA – Agenzia Regionale per lo Sviluppo e per i Servizi in Agricoltura, Servizio Agropedologia. Rubbettino, 387 pp.

BEN-DOR E. (2002) Quantitative remote sensing of soil properties. Advances Agronomy 75:173-243.

BORSI S., HIEKE MERLIN O., LORENZONI S., PAGLIONICO A., ZANETTIN LORENZONI E. (1976) Stilo unit and "dioritic-kinzigitic" unit in Le Serre (Calabria, Italy). Geological, petrological, geochronological characters. Bollettino della Società Geologica Italiana 95:219-244.

BROWN D.J., SHEPHERD K.D., WALSH M.G., DEWAYNE MAYS M., REINSCH T.G. (2006) Global soil characterization with VNIR diffuse reflectance spectroscopy. Geoderma 132:273–290.

BUTTAFUOCO G., CONFORTI M., AUCELLI P.P.C., ROBUSTELLI G., SCARCIGLIA F. (2012) Assessing spatial uncertainty in mapping soil erodibility factor using geostatistical stochastic simulation. Environmental Earth Sciences, 66:1111-1125.

CALCATERRA D., PARISE M. (2010) Weathering in the crystalline rocks of Calabria, Italy, and relationships to landslides. In: Calcaterra, D., Parise, M. (Eds.), Weathering as predisposing factor to slope movements. Geological Society of London, Engineering Geology Series, Special Publication, 23:105–130.

CALCATERRA D., PARISE M., DATTOLA L. (1996) Caratteristiche dell’alterazione e franosità di rocce granitoidi nel bacino del torrente Alaco (Massiccio della Serre, Calabria). Bollettino della Società Geologica Italiana 115:3-28.

CHANG C.W., LAIRD D.A., MAUSBACH M.J., HURBURGH JR C.R. (2001) Near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy - principal components regression analysis of soil properties. Soil Science Society of America Journal 65:480– 490.

CHILÈS J.P., DELFINER P. (2012) Geostatistics: modelling spatial uncertainty. Wiley, New York.

CLARK R.N., KING T.V.V., KLEJWA M., SWAYZE G.A. (1990) High spectral resolution reflectance spectroscopy of minerals. Journal of Geophysical Research 95:653–680.

CONFORTI M., BUTTAFUOCO G., LEONE A.P., AUCELLI P.P.C., ROBUSTELLI G, SCARCIGLIA F. (2012) Soil erosion assessment using proximal spectral reflectance in VIS-NIR-SWIR region in sample area of Calabria region (southern Italy). Rendiconti Online della Società Geologica Italiana 21:1202-1204.

CONFORTI M., BUTTAFUOCO G., LEONE A.P., AUCELLI P.P.C., ROBUSTELLI G, SCARCIGLIA F. (2013) Studying the relationship between water-induced soil erosion and soil organic matter using Vis-NIR spectroscopy and geomorphological analysis: a case study in a southern Italy area. Catena 110:44-58.

COZZOLINO D., MORON A. (2003) The potential of near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy to analyze soil chemical and physical characteristics. Journal Agricultural Science 140:65–71.

DEMATTÊ J.A.M., CAMPOS R.C., ALVES M.C., FIORIO P.R., NANNI M.R. (2004) Visible-NIR reflectance: a new approach on soil evaluation. Geoderma, Amsterdan 121:50–112.

DEMATTÊ J.A.M., SOUSA A.A., ALVES M.C., NANNI M.R., FIORIO P.R., CAMPOS R.C. (2006) Determining soil water status and other soil characteristics by spectral proximal sensing. Geoderma 135:179-195.

DEMATTÊ J.A. M., TERRA F.S. (2014) Spectral Pedology: a new perspective on evaluation of soils along pedogenetic alterations. Geoderma 217-218, 190-200.

EFRON B., TIBSHIRANI R. (1993) An introduction to the bootstrap. Monographs on statistics and applied probability. Vol. 57, Chapman and Hall, London, UK, 436 pp.

FARIFTEH J., VAN DER MEER F., ATZBERGER C., CARRANZA E.J.M. (2007).Quantitative analysis of salt-affected soil reflectance spectra: A comparison of two adaptive methods (PLSR and ANN). Remote Sensing of Environment 110:59–78.

GELADI P., KOWALSKI B.R. (1986) Partial Least-Squares regression: a tutorial. Analytica Chimica Acta 185:1-17.

GOOVAERTS P. (1997) Geostatistics for natural resources evaluation. Oxford University Press: New York, NY, 496 pp.

JANIK L.J., MERRY R.H., SKJEMSTAD J.O. (1998) Can mid infra-red diffuse reflectance analysis replace soil extractions?. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 38:681– 696.

KEMPER T., SOMMER S. (2002) Estimate of heavy metal contamination in soils after a mining accident using reflectance spectroscopy. Environmental Science & Technology 3:2742–2747.

KÖPPEN W. (1936) Das geographische System der Klimate. In: Köppen W, Geiger R, Teil C (eds) Handbuch der Klimatologie. Band 5. Gebrüder Bornträger, Berlin, pp 1-46.

LEONE A.P., SOMMER S. (2000) Multivariate analysis of laboratory spectra for the assessment of soil development and soil degradation in the Southern Apennines (Italy). Remote Sensing of Environment 72:346–359.

MABIT L., BERNARD C. (2009) Spatial distribution and content of soil organic matter in an agricultural field in eastern Canada, as estimated from geostatistical tools. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 35:278-283.

MARTENS H., NAES T. (1989) Multivariate Calibration. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, United Kingdom, UK.

MATHERON G. (1971) The Theory of Regionalised variables and its Applications. Les Cahiers du Centre de Morphologie Mathématique de Fontainebleau, n. 5, 271 pp.

MOUAZEN A.M., DE BAERDEMAEKER J., RAMON H. (2006) Effect of wavelength range on the measurement accuracy of some selected soil constituents using visual-near infrared spectroscopy. Journal of Near Infrared Spectroscopy 14:189–199.

MOUAZEN A.M., MALEKI M.R., DE BAERDEMAEKER J., RAMON H. (2007) On-line measurement of some selected soil properties using a VIS-NIR sensor. Soil and Tillage Research 93:13-27.

NÆS T., ISAKSSON T., FEARN T., DAVIES T. (2004) A User-Friendly Guide to Multivariate Calibration and Classification. Reprinted with corrections. NIR Publications, Chichester ISBN: 0-9528666-2-5.

OSMAN K.T. (2013) Forest soils. Properties and management. Springer international publishing

REEVES J.B., MCCARTY G.W., REEVES V.B. (2001) Mid-Infrared diffuse reflectance spectroscopy for the quantitative analysis of agricultural soils. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 4:66–772.

SARKHOT D.V., GRUNWALD S., GE Y., MORGAN C.L.S. (2011) Comparison and detection of total and available soil carbon fractions using visible/near infrared diffuse reflectance spectroscopy. Geoderma 164:23-32.

SEQUI P., DE NOBILI M. (2000) Determinazione del carbonio organico. In: Violante, P. (Ed.), Metodi di analisi chimica del suolo, VII.3. Franco Angeli, Roma, pp. 18–25.

SHEPHERD K.D., WALSH M.G. (2002) Development of reflectance spectral libraries for characterization of soil properties. Soil Science Society of America Journal 66:988–998.

SØRWNSEN L.K., DALSGAARD S. (2005) Determination of clay and other soil properties by near infrared spectroscopy. Soil Science Society of America Journal 69:159-167.

SORRISO-VALVO M. (1993) The geomorphology of Calabria. A sketch. Geografia Fisica & Dinamica Quaternaria 16:75– 80.

STENBERG B., VISCARRA ROSSEL R.A., MOUAZEN A.M., WETTERLIND J. (2010) Visible and Near Infrared Spectroscopy in Soil Science. Advances in Agronomy 107:163-215.

USDA (2010) Keys to Soil Taxonomy, 11th edit., Soil Survey Staff. USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Washington, DC, 338 pp.

VÅGEN T.G., SHEPHERD K.D., WALSH M.G. (2006) Sensing landscape level change in soil quality following deforestation and conversion in the highlands of Madagascar using Vis-NIR spectroscopy. Geoderma 133:281-294.

VASQUES G.M., GRUNWALD S., COMERFORD N.B., SICKMAN J.O. (2010) Regional modelling of soil carbon at multiple depths within a subtropical watershed. Geoderma 156:326-336.

VISCARRA ROSSEL R.A. (2008) ParLeS: software for chemometrics analysis of spectroscopic data. Chemometrics and Intelligent Laboratory Systems 90:72-83.

VISCARRA ROSSEL R.A., BEHRENS T. (2010) Using data mining to model and interpret soil diffuse reflectance spectra. Geoderma 158:46–54.

VISCARRA ROSSEL R.A., WALVOORT D.J.J., MCBRATNEY A.B., JANIK L.J., SKJEMSTAD J.O. (2006) Visible, near-infrared, mid-infrared or combined diffuse reflectance spectroscopy for simultaneous assessment of various soil properties. Geoderma 131:59–75.

WACKERNAGEL H. (2003) Multivariate geostatistics: an introduction with applications. Springer, Berlin.

WAISER T.H., MORGAN C.L.S., BROWN D.J., HALLMARK C.T. (2007) In Situ Characterization of Soil Clay Content with Visible Near-Infrared Diffuse Reflectance Spectroscopy. Soil Science Society of America Journal.71: 389-396.

WEBSTER R, OLIVER M.A. (2007) Geostatistics for environmental scientists, 2nd Wiley, Chichester.

WETTERLIND J., STENBERG B., SÖDERSTRÖM M. (2008) The use of near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy to improve soil mapping at the farm scale. Precision Agriculture 9:57–69.




How to Cite

Conforti, M., Froio, R., Matteucci, G., Caloiero, T., & Buttafuoco, G. (2013). Potentiality of laboratory visible and near infrared spectroscopy for determining clay content in forest soil: a case study from high forest beech (fagus sylvatica) in Calabria (southern Italy). EQA - International Journal of Environmental Quality, 11(11), 49–64. https://doi.org/10.6092/issn.2281-4485/4172