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Dynamics of Forest Ecosystems Under Global Change: Applications of Artificial Intelligence in Mapping, Classification, and Projection

posted on 2023-10-10, 19:37 authored by Akane Ota AbbasiAkane Ota Abbasi

Global forest ecosystems provide essential ecosystem services that contribute to water and climate regulation, food production, recreation, and raw materials. They also serve as crucial habitats for numerous terrestrial species of amphibians, birds, and mammals worldwide. However, recent decades have witnessed unprecedented changes in forest ecosystems due to climate change, shifts in species distribution patterns, increased planted forest areas, and various disturbances such as forest fires, insect infestations, and urbanization. These changes can have far-reaching impacts on ecological networks, human well-being, and the well-being of global forest ecosystems. To address these challenges, I present four studies to quantify forest dynamics through mapping, classification, and projection, using artificial intelligence tools in combination with a vast amount of training data. (I) I present a spatially continuous map of planted forest distribution across East Asia, produced by integrating multiple sources of planted and natural forest data. I found that China contributed 87% of the total planted forest areas in East Asia, most of which are located in the lowland tropical/subtropical regions and Sichuan Basin. I also estimated the dominant genus in each planted forest location. (II) I used continent-wide forest inventory data to compare the range shifts of forest types and their constituent tree species in North America in the past 50 years. I found that forest types shifted more than three times as fast as the average of their constituent tree species. This marked difference was attributable to a predominant positive covariance between tree species ranges and the change of species relative abundance. (III) Based on individual-level field surveys of trees and breeding birds across North America, I characterized New World wood-warbler (Parulidae) species richness and its potential drivers. I identified forest type as the most powerful predictor of New World wood-warbler species richness, which adds valuable evidence to the ongoing physiognomy versus composition debate among ornithologists. (IV) In the appendix, I utilized continent-wide forest inventory data from North America and South America and the combination of supervised and unsupervised machine learning algorithms to produce the first data-driven map of forest types in the Americas. I revealed the distribution of forest types, which are useful for cost-effective forest and biodiversity management and planning. Taken together, these studies provide insight into the dynamics of forest ecosystems at a large geographic scale and have implications for effective decision-making in conservation, management, and global restoration programs in the midst of ongoing global change.


World Resources Institute project "Mapping planted forests in China"

World Resources Institute project "Quantifying global forest carbon dynamics using MATRIX model"

The Bezos Earth Fund

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture McIntire Stennis projects 1017711

New Faculty Start-Up Grant by the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University

College of Agriculture, Purdue University

Takenaka Scholarship Foundation


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Forestry and Natural Resources

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Jingjing Liang

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Sergio de-Miguel

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. John B. Dunning, Jr.

Additional Committee Member 4

Dr. Mo Zhou