Global monitoring of soil multifunctionality in drylands using satellite imagery and field data

R. Hernández-Clemente*, A. Hornero, V. Gonzalez-Dugo, M. Berdugo, J. L. Quero, J. C. Jiménez, F. T. Maestre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Models derived from satellite image data are needed to monitor the status of terrestrial ecosystems across large spatial scales. However, a remote sensing-based approach to quantify soil multifunctionality at the global scale is missing despite significant research efforts on this topic. A major constraint for doing so is the availability of suitable global-scale field data to calibrate remote sensing indicators (RSI) and, to a lesser extent, the sensitivity of spectral data of available satellite sensors to soil background and atmospheric conditions. Here, we aimed to develop a soil multifunctionality model to monitor global drylands coupling ground data on 14 soil functions of 222 dryland areas from six continents to 18 RSI derived from a time series (2006–2013) Landsat dataset. Among the RSI evaluated, the chlorophyll absorption ratio index was the best predictor of soil multifunctionality in single-variable-based models (r = 0.66, P < 0.01, NMRSE = 0.17). However, a multi-variable RSI model combining the chlorophyll absorption ratio index, the global environment monitoring index and the canopy-air temperature difference improved the accuracy of quantifying soil multifunctionality (r = 0.73, P < 0.01, NMRSE = 0.15). Furthermore, the correlation between RSI and soil variables shows a wide range of accuracy with upper and lower values obtained for AMI (r = 0.889, NMRSE = 0.05) and BGL (r = 0.685, NMRSE = 0.18) respectively. Our results provide new insights on assessing soil multifunctionality using RSI that may help to monitor temporal changes in the functioning of global drylands effectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)743-758
Number of pages16
JournalRemote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Artificial intelligence
  • drylands
  • global monitoring
  • satellite data
  • soil multifunctionality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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