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Using the most similar case method to automatically select environmental covariates for predictive mapping


Predictive mapping of environment is an important means for environment assessment and management. The selection of predictor variables (or environmental covariates) is the first and key step in predictive mapping. A number of machine learning and statistical models have been developed to select what and how many environmental covariates in a wide range of predictive mapping. Nevertheless, those models require a large amount of field data for model training and calibration, which can be problematic in applying to the areas with no or very limited field data available. To overcome the shortcoming, this paper proposes the most similar case method for selecting environmental covariates for predictive mapping. First, we describe the basic idea and the development procedures of the most similar case method; second, as an experimental test, we employ the proposed method to select the topographic covariates for inputting to the predictive soil mapping; third, we evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed method in the designed experiment using the leave-one-out cross-validation method. In total, 191 evaluation cases are included in the experimental case base and the test results show that 58.7% of the topographic covariates originally used in each evaluation case are correctly selected by the proposed method, which suggests that the proposed most-similar-case method perform reasonably well even with a relatively limited size of the case base. The future work should include the selection of other types of environmental covariates (e.g., climate, organism, etc.) and the development of an automatic method to extract the existing application cases from literature.

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The work reported here was supported by grants from National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project No.: 41431177, 41871300) and National Key R&D Program of China (No. 2016YFC0500205). We thank the support from PAPD, and Outstanding Innovation Team in Colleges and Universities in Jiangsu Province. Supports to A-Xing Zhu through the Vilas Associate Award, the Hammel Faculty Fellow Award, and the Manasse Chair Professorship from the University of Wisconsin-Madison are greatly appreciated.

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Correspondence to Cheng-Zhi Qin.

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Communicated by: H. Babaie

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Liang, P., Qin, CZ., Zhu, AX. et al. Using the most similar case method to automatically select environmental covariates for predictive mapping. Earth Sci Inform 13, 719–728 (2020).

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