Bare Earth's Surface Spectra as a Proxy for Soil Resource Monitoring

Sci Rep. 2020 Mar 10;10(1):4461. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-61408-1.


The Earth's surface dynamics provide essential information for guiding environmental and agricultural policies. Uncovered and unprotected surfaces experience several undesirable effects, which can affect soil ecosystem functions. We developed a technique to identify global bare surface areas and their dynamics based on multitemporal remote sensing images to aid the spatiotemporal evaluation of anthropic and natural phenomena. The bare Earth's surface and its changes were recognized by Landsat image processing over a time range of 30 years using the Google Earth Engine platform. Two additional products were obtained with a similar technique: a) Earth's bare surface frequency, which represents where and how many times a single pixel was detected as bare surface, based on Landsat series, and b) Earth's bare soil tendency, which represents the tendency of bare surface to increase or decrease. This technique enabled the retrieval of bare surfaces on 32% of Earth's total land area and on 95% of land when considering only agricultural areas. From a multitemporal perspective, the technique found a 2.8% increase in bare surfaces during the period on a global scale. However, the rate of soil exposure decreased by ~4.8% in the same period. The increase in bare surfaces shows that agricultural areas are increasing worldwide. The decreasing rate of soil exposure indicates that, unlike popular opinion, more soils have been covered due to the adoption of conservation agriculture practices, which may reduce soil degradation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't