Novel spatial interpolation methods for environmental properties: using point samples of mud content as an example
Authors / CoAuthors
A key component of Geoscience Australia's marine program involves developing products that contain spatial information about the seabed for Australia's marine jurisdiction. This spatial information is derived from sparse or unevenly distributed samples collected over a number of years using many different sampling methods. Spatial interpolation methods are used for generating spatially continuous information from the point samples. These methods are, however, often data- or even variable- specific and it is difficult to select an appropriate method for any given dataset. Machine learning methods, like random forest (RF) and support vector machine (SVM), have proven to be among the most accurate methods in disciplines such as bioinformatics and terrestrial ecology. However, they have been rarely previously applied to the spatial interpolation of environmental variables using point samples. To improve the accuracy of spatial interpolations to better represent the seabed environment for a variety of applications, including prediction of biodiversity and surrogacy research, Geoscience Australia has conducted two simulation experiments to compare the performance of 14 mathematical and statistical methods to predict seabed mud content for three regions (i.e., Southwest, North, Northeast) of Australia's marine jurisdiction Since 2008. This study confirms the effectiveness of applying machine learning methods to spatial data interpolation, especially in combination with OK or IDS, and also confirms the effectiveness of averaging the predictions of these combined methods. Moreover, an alternative source of methods for spatial interpolation of both marine and terrestrial environmental properties using point survey samples has been identified, with associated improvements in accuracy over commonly used methods.