GIS-based groundwater potential mapping using boosted regression tree, classification and regression tree, and random forest machine learning models in Iran

  • Seyed Amir Naghibi
  • Hamid Reza Pourghasemi
  • Barnali Dixon


Groundwater is considered one of the most valuable fresh water resources. The main objective of this study was to produce groundwater spring potential maps in the Koohrang Watershed, Chaharmahal-e-Bakhtiari Province, Iran, using three machine learning models: boosted regression tree (BRT), classification and regression tree (CART), and random forest (RF). Thirteen hydrological-geological-physiographical (HGP) factors that influence locations of springs were considered in this research. These factors include slope degree, slope aspect, altitude, topographic wetness index (TWI), slope length (LS), plan curvature, profile curvature, distance to rivers, distance to faults, lithology, land use, drainage density, and fault density. Subsequently, groundwater spring potential was modeled and mapped using CART, RF, and BRT algorithms. The predicted results from the three models were validated using the receiver operating characteristics curve (ROC). From 864 springs identified, 605 (≈70 %) locations were used for the spring potential mapping, while the remaining 259 (≈30 %) springs were used for the model validation. The area under the curve (AUC) for the BRT model was calculated as 0.8103 and for CART and RF the AUC were 0.7870 and 0.7119, respectively. Therefore, it was concluded that the BRT model produced the best prediction results while predicting locations of springs followed by CART and RF models, respectively. Geospatially integrated BRT, CART, and RF methods proved to be useful in generating the spring potential map (SPM) with reasonable accuracy.


Spring potential mapping Boosted regression tree Classification and regression tree Random forest GIS Iran 



The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the previous version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Seyed Amir Naghibi
    • 1
  • Hamid Reza Pourghasemi
    • 2
  • Barnali Dixon
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Watershed Management Engineering, College of Natural ResourcesTarbiat Modares UniversityNoorIran
  2. 2.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Engineering, College of AgricultureShiraz UniversityShirazIran
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Science, Policy and GeographyUniversity of South FloridaSaint PetersburgUSA

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