Cross-site learning in deep learning RGB tree crown detection


Tree detection is a fundamental task in remote sensing for forestry and ecosystem ecology applications. While many individual tree segmentation algorithms have been proposed, the development and testing of these algorithms is typically site specific, with few methods evaluated against data from multiple forest types simultaneously. This makes it difficult to determine the generalization of proposed approaches, and limits tree detection at broad scales. Using data from the National Ecological Observatory Network we extend a recently developed semi-supervised deep learning algorithm to include data from a range of forest types, determine whether information from one forest can be used for tree detection in other forests, and explore the potential for building a universal tree detection algorithm. We find that the deep learning approach works well for overstory tree detection across forest conditions, outperforming conventional LIDAR only methods in all forest types. Performance was best in open oak woodlands and worst in alpine forests. When models were fit to one forest type and used to predict another, performance generally decreased, with better performance when forests were more similar in structure. However, when models were pretrained on data from other sites and then fine-tuned using a small amount of hand-labeled data from the evaluation site, they performed similarly to local site models. Most importantly, a universal model fit to data from all sites simultaneously performed as well or better than individual models trained for each local site. This result suggests that RGB tree detection models that can be applied to a wide array of forest types at broad scales should be possible.




B. Weinstein, S. Marconi, S. Bohlman, A. Zare, E. White, "Cross-site learning in deep learning RGB tree crown detection." in Ecological Informatics, vol. 56, 2020.
@Article {Weinstein2020CrossSiteLearning,
author = {Weinstein, Ben and Marconi, Sergio and Bohlman, Stephanie and Zare, Alina and White, Ethan P},
title = {Cross-site learning in deep learning RGB tree crown detection},
journal = {Ecological Informatics},  
volume = {56},  
year = {2020},