• Christopher D. Lippitt1,
  • John Rogan2,
  • Zhe Li3,
  • J. Ronald Eastman2,
  • Trevor G. Jones4
  • 1Department of Geography, Graduate School of Geography, Clark University, San Diego State University, 950 Main St., Worcester, MA 01610, 5500 Campanile Dr., San Diego, CA 92182
  • 2Graduate School of Geography, Clark University, 950 Main St., Worcester, MA 01610
  • 3Graduate School of Geography, GISc Center of Excellence, Clark University, South Dakota State University, 950 Main St., Worcester, MA 01610, Wecota Hall, Box 506B, Brookings, SD 57007
  • 4Department of Forest Resources Management, Graduate School of Geography, Clark University, University of British Columbia, 950 Main St., Worcester, MA 01610, Vancouver, B.C., Canada


This study assesses the performance of five Machine Learning Algorithms (MLAs) in a chronically modified mixed deciduous forest in Massachusetts (USA) in terms of their ability to detect selective timber logging and to cope with deficient reference datasets. Multitemporal Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper-plus (ETM+) imagery is used to assess the performance of three Artificial Neural Networks – Multi-Layer Perceptron, ARTMAP, Self-Organizing Map, and two Classification Tree splitting algorithms: gini and entropy rules. MLA performance evaluations are based on susceptibility to reduced training set size, noise, and variations in the training set, as well as the operability/transparency of the classification process. Classification trees produced the most accurate selective logging maps (gini and entropy rule decision tree mean overall map accuracy = 94 percent and mean per-class kappa of 0.59 and 0.60, respectively). Classification trees are shown to be more robust and accurate when faced with deficient training data, regardless of splitting rule. Of the neural network algorithms, self-organizing maps were least sensitive to the introduction of noise and variations in training data. Given their robust classification capabilities and transparency of the class-selection process, classification trees are preferable algorithms for mapping selective logging and have potential in other forest monitoring applications.

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