Machine learning-based detection of soil salinity in an arid desert region, Northwest China: A comparison between Landsat-8 OLI and Sentinel-2 MSI

Jingzhe Wang, Jianli Ding, Danlin Yu, Dexiong Teng, Bin He, Xiangyue Chen, Xiangyu Ge, Zipeng Zhang, Yi Wang, Xiaodong Yang, Tiezhu Shi, Fenzhen Su

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


Accurate assessment of soil salinization is considered as one of the most important steps in combating global climate change, especially in arid and semi-arid regions. Multi-spectral remote sensing (RS) data including Landsat series provides the potential for frequent surveys for soil salinization at various scales and resolutions. Additionally, the recently launched Sentinel-2 satellite constellation has temporal revisiting frequency of 5 days, which has been proven to be an ideal approach to assess soil salinity. Yet, studies on detailed comparison in soil salinity tracking between Landsat-8 OLI and Sentinel-2 MSI remain limited. For this purpose, we collected a total of 64 topsoil samples in an arid desert region, the Ebinur Lake Wetland National Nature Reserve (ELWNNR) to compare the monitoring accuracy between Landsat-8 OLI and Sentinel-2 MSI. In this study, the Cubist model was trained using RS-derived covariates (spectral bands, Tasseled Cap transformation-derived wetness (TCW), and satellite salinity indices) and laboratory measured electrical conductivity of 1:5 soil:water extract (EC). The results showed that the measured soil salinity had a significant correlation with surface soil moisture (Pearson's r = 0.75). The introduction of TCW generated satisfactory estimating performance. Compared with OLI dataset, the combination of MSI dataset and Cubist model yielded overall better model performance and accuracy measures (R2 = 0.912, RMSE = 6.462 dS m−1, NRMSE = 9.226%, RPD = 3.400 and RPIQ = 6.824, respectively). The differences between Landsat-8 OLI and Sentinel-2 MSI were distinguishable. In conclusion, MSI image with finer spatial resolution performed better than OLI. Combining RS data sets and their derived TCW within a Cubist framework yielded accurate regional salinity map. The increased temporal revisiting frequency and spectral resolution of MSI data are expected to be positive enhancements to the acquisition of high-quality soil salinity information of desert soils.

Original languageEnglish
Article number136092
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 10 Mar 2020


  • Cubist
  • Landsat-8 OLI
  • Remote sensing
  • Sentinel-2 MSI
  • Soil salinization
  • Surface soil moisture


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