Canadian Forest Service Publications

Application of machine-learning methods in forest ecology: recent progress and future challenges.2018. Liu, Z.; Peng, C.; Work, T.; Candau, J.-N.; DesRochers, Kneeshaw, D. Environmental Review 26: 339-350.

Year: 2018

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 39499

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1139/er-2018-0034

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Plain Language Summary

Machine learning, an important branch of artificial intelligence, is increasingly being applied in sciences such as forest ecology. Here, we review and discuss three commonly used methods of machine learning (ML) including decision-tree learning, artificial neural network, and support vector machine and their applications in four different aspects of forest ecology over the last decade. These applications include: (i) species distribution models, (ii) carbon cycles, (iii) hazard assessment and prediction, and (iv) other applications in forest management. Although ML approaches are useful for classification, modeling, and prediction in forest ecology research, further expansion of ML technologies is limited by the lack of suitable data and the relatively “higher threshold” of applications. However, the combined use of multiple algorithms and improved communication and cooperation between ecological researchers and ML developers still present major challenges and tasks for the betterment of future ecological research. We suggest that future applications of ML in ecology will become an increasingly attractive tool for ecologists in the face of “big data” and that ecologists will gain access to more types of data such as sound and video in the near future, possibly opening new avenues of research in forest ecology.