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Modeling the Spatial Distribution of Soil Heavy Metals Using Random Forest Model—A Case Study of Nairobi and Thirirka Rivers’ Confluence

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Document pages: 23 pages

Abstract: Modeling the spatial distribution of soil heavy metals is important in determining the safety of contaminated soils for agricultural use. This study utilized 60 topsoil samples (0 - 30 cm), multispectral images (Sentinel-2), spectral indices, and ancillary data to model the spatial distribution of heavy metals in the soils along the Nairobi River. The model was generated using the Random Forest package in R. Using R2 to assess the prediction accuracy, the Random Forest model generated satisfactory results for all the elements. It also ranked the variables in order of their importance in the overall prediction. Spectral indices were the most important variables within the rankings. From the predicted topsoil maps, there were high concentrations of Cadmium on the easterly end of the river. Cadmium is an impurity in detergents, and this section is in close proximity to the Nairobi water sewerage plant, which could be a direct source of Cadmium. Some farms had Zinc levels which were above the World Health Organization recommended limit. The Random Forest model performed satisfactorily. However, the predictions can be improved further if the spatial resolutions of the various variables are increased and through the addition of more predictor variables.

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