Rapid prediction of particulate, humus and resistant fractions of soil organic carbon in reforested lands using infrared spectroscopy

Dinesh Madhavan, Jeff Baldock, Zoe Read, Simon Murphy, Shaun C. Cunningham, Michael Perring, Tim Herrmann, Tom Lewis, T Cavagnaro, Jacqueline England, Keryn Paul, Chris Weston, Thomas Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Reforestation of agricultural lands with mixed-species environmental plantings can effectively sequester C. While accurate and efficient methods for predicting soil organic C content and composition have recently been developed for soils under agricultural land uses, such methods under forested land uses are currently lacking. This study aimed to develop a method using infrared spectroscopy for accurately predicting total organic C (TOC) and its fractions (particulate, POC; humus, HOC; and resistant, ROC organic C) in soils under environmental plantings. Soils were collected from 117 paired agricultural-reforestation sites across Australia. TOC fractions were determined in a subset of 38 reforested soils using physical fractionation by automated wet-sieving and 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Mid- and near-infrared spectra (MNIRS, 6000–450 cm-1) were acquired from finely-ground soils from environmental plantings and agricultural land. Satisfactory prediction models based on MNIRS and partial least squares regression (PLSR) were developed for TOC and its fractions. Leave-one-out cross-validations of MNIRS-PLSR models indicated accurate predictions (R2 > 0.90, negligible bias, ratio of performance to deviation > 3) and fraction-specific functional group contributions to beta coefficients in the models. TOC and its fractions were predicted using the cross-validated models and soil spectra for 3109 reforested and agricultural soils. The reliability of predictions determined using k-nearest neighbour score distance indicated that >80% of predictions were within the satisfactory inlier limit. The study demonstrated the utility of infrared spectroscopy (MNIRS-PLSR) to rapidly and economically determine TOC and its fractions and thereby accurately describe the effects of land use change such as reforestation on agricultural soils.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-299
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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