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Assessing the niche of Rhododendron arboreum using entropy and machine learning algorithms: role of atmospheric, ecological, and hydrological variables

Published in SPIE
Volume: 16
Issue: 4
Pages: 042402-1 - 17
Species distribution models (SDMs) have been used extensively in the field of landscape ecology and conservation biology since its origin in the late 1980s. But there is still a void for a universal modeling approach for SDMs. With recent advancements in satellite data and machine learning algorithms, the prediction of species occurrence is more accurate and realistic. Presently, four machine learning and regression-based algorithms, namely, generalized linear model, maximum entropy, boosted regression tree, and random forest (RF) are used to model the geographical distribution of Rhododendron arboreum, which is economically and medicinally important species found in the fragile ecosystem of Himalayas. To establish complex relation between the occurrence data and regional climatic and land use parameters, several satellite products, namely, MODIS, Sentinel-5p, GPM, ECOSTRESS, and shuttle radar topography mission (SRTM), are acquired and used as predictor variables to the different SDM algorithms. The performance evaluation has been conducted using the area under curve (AUC), which showed the best result for Maxent (AUC = 0.871) and poor result was observed for RF (AUC = 0.755) among all. The overall prediction confirmed the distribution of Rhododendron arboreum in the mid to high altitudes of central and southern parts of the Garhwal Division. We provide crucial evidence that combining multisatellite products using machine learning algorithms can provide a much better understanding of species distribution that can eventually help the researchers and policymakers to take the necessary step toward its conservation.
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