In Frontiers in plant science ; h5-index 0.0
Addressing current global challenges such as biodiversity loss, global change, and increasing demands for ecosystem services requires improved ecological prediction. Recent increases in data availability, process understanding, and computing power are fostering quantitative approaches in ecology. However, flexible methodological frameworks are needed to utilize these developments towards improved ecological prediction. Deep learning is a rapidly evolving branch of machine learning, yet has received only little attention in ecology to date. It refers to the training of deep neural networks (DNNs), i.e. artificial neural networks consisting of many layers and a large number of neurons. We here provide a reproducible example (including code and data) of designing, training, and applying DNNs for ecological prediction. Using bark beetle outbreaks in conifer-dominated forests as an example, we show that DNNs are well able to predict both short-term infestation risk at the local scale and long-term outbreak dynamics at the landscape level. We furthermore highlight that DNNs have better overall performance than more conventional approaches to predicting bark beetle outbreak dynamics. We conclude that DNNs have high potential to form the backbone of a comprehensive disturbance forecasting system. More broadly, we argue for an increased utilization of the predictive power of DNNs for a wide range of ecological problems.
Rammer Werner, Seidl Rupert
computational ecology, deep neural networks, ecological prediction, forest disturbance, machine learning