Using proximal soil sensors and fuzzy classification for mapping Amazonian Dark Earths


  • Mats Söderström Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • Christian Isendahl Uppsala University
  • Jan Eriksson Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
  • Suzana Romeiro Araújo Universidade de São Paulo
  • Lilian Rebellato Universidade Federal do Oeste do Pará
  • Denise Pahl Schaan Universidade Federal do Pará
  • Per Stenborg University of Gothenburg


Electromagnetic induction, magnetic susceptibility, gamma radiation, anthropogenic soil types, prehistoric agriculture, archaeology


We tested if hand-carried field proximal soil sensing (PSS) can be used to map the distribution of anthropogenic Amazonian Dark Earths (ADE). ADE soils are rich in archaeological artefacts, nutrients, organic matter and carbon in the very stable form of pyrogenic carbon, also referred to as black carbon or biochar. To test the capacity of PSS to detect signature ADE properties we measured electrical conductivity (ECa), magnetic susceptibility (MSa) and gamma ray data by transect sampling and compared these readings, using fuzzy classification, with datasets on chemical soil properties from a 28 ha large study area located on the Belterra Plateau of the Lower Amazon in northern Brazil. Results indicate that ECa and MSa measurements were good indicators of ADE signatures, but that the gamma radiation sensor was less useful in the deeply weathered soils. PSS and fuzzy classification can be used for rapid field mapping of ADE for both agricultural and archaeological purposes.


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How to Cite

Söderström, M., Isendahl, C., Eriksson, J., Araújo, S. R., Rebellato, L., Schaan, D. P., & Stenborg, P. (2013). Using proximal soil sensors and fuzzy classification for mapping Amazonian Dark Earths. Agricultural and Food Science, 22(4), 380–389.
Received 2013-05-31
Accepted 2013-12-07
Published 2013-12-18