Improving plot-level model of forest biomass: A combined approach using machine learning with spatial statistics

Shaoqing Dai, Xiaoman Zheng, Lei Gao, Chengdong Xu, Shudi Zuo, Qi Chen, Xiaohua Wei, Yin Ren*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Estimating the aboveground biomass (AGB) at the plot level plays a major role in connecting accurate single-tree AGB measurements to relatively difficult regional AGB estimates. However, AGB estimates at the plot level suffer from many uncertainties. The goal of this study is to determine whether combining machine learning with spatial statistics reduces the uncertainty of plot-level AGB estimates. To illustrate this issue, this study evaluates and compares the performance of different models for estimating plot-level forest AGB. These models include three different machine learning models [support vector machine (SVM), random forest (RF), and a radial basis function artificial neural network (RBF-ANN)], one spatial statistic model (P-BSHADE), and three combinations thereof (SVM & P-BSHADE, RF & P-BSHADE, and RBF-ANN & P-BSHADE). The results show that the root mean square error, mean absolute error, and mean relative error of all combined models are substantially smaller than those of any individual model, with the RF & P-BSHADE combined method generating the smallest values. These results indicate that a combined approach using machine learning with spatial statistics, especially the RF & P-BSHADE model, improves the accuracy of plot-level AGB models. These research results contribute to the development of accurate large-forested-landscape AGB maps.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1663
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2021


  • Forest aboveground biomass
  • Machine learning
  • Model combination
  • Plot-level model
  • Spatial statistical model


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