Soil Mapping Based on Globally Optimal Decision Trees and Digital Imitations of Traditional Approaches
Most digital soil mapping (DSM) approaches aim at complete statistical model extraction. The value of the explicit rules of soil delineation formulated by soil-mapping experts is often underestimated. These rules can be used for expert testing of the notional consistency of soil maps, soil trend prediction, soil geography investigations, and other applications. We propose an approach that imitates traditional soil mapping by constructing compact globally optimal decision trees (EVTREE) for the covariates of traditionally used soil formation factor maps. We evaluated our approach by regional-scale soil mapping at a test site in the Belgorod region of Russia. The notional consistency and compactness of the decision trees created by EVTREE were found to be suitable for expert-based analysis and improvement. With a large sample set, the accuracy of the predictions was slightly lower for EVTREE (59%) than for CART (67%) and much lower than for Random Forest (87%). With smaller sample sets of 1785 and 1000 points, EVTREE produced comparable or more accurate predictions and much more accurate models of soil geography than CART or Random Forest.