Surficial and Deep Earth Material Prediction from Geochemical Compositions

Hassan Talebi, Ute Mueller, Raimon Tolosana-Delgado, Eric C. Grunsky, Jennifer M. McKinley, Patrice de Caritat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
159 Downloads (Pure)


Prediction of true classes of surficial and deep earth materials using multivariate geospatial data is a common challenge for geoscience modellers. Most geological processes leave a footprint that can be explored by geochemical data analysis. These footprints are normally complex statistical and spatial patterns buried deep in the high-dimensional compositional space. To explore these patterns, advanced spatial data analysis techniques should be implemented. This paper proposes a spatial predictive model for classification of surficial and deep earth materials derived from the geochemical composition of surface regolith that fully accounts for spatial uncertainty. The model is based on a combination of geostatistical simulation and machine learning approaches. A random forest (RF) predictive model is trained and features are ranked based on their contribution to the predictive model. To generate potential and uncertainty maps, compositional data are simulated at unsampled locations via a chain of transformations (isometric log-ratio transformation followed by the flow anamorphosis) and geostatistical simulation). The simulated results are subsequently back-transformed to the original compositional space. The trained RF model is used to predict the true classes for simulated compositions at unsampled locations. The proposed approach is illustrated through two case studies. In the first case study the major crustal blocks of the Australian continent are predicted from the surface regolith geochemistry of the National Geochemical Survey of Australia project. The aim of the second case study is to discover the superficial deposits (peat) from the regional-scale soil geochemical data of the Tellus project. The accuracy of the results in these two case studies confirms the usefulness of the proposed method for geological class prediction and geological process discovery.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)869-891
Number of pages23
JournalNatural Resources Research
Issue number3
Early online date31 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


  • Compositional data, Log-ratio, flow anamorphosis, geostatistical simulation, machine learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics

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