The evaluation of the future dynamics of deforestation is essential to creating the basis for the effective implementation of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) initiatives. Such evaluation is often a challenging task, especially for countries that have to cope with a critical lack of data and capacities, higher uncertainties, and competing interests. We present a new modeling approach that makes use of available and easily accessible data sources to predict the spatial location of future deforestation. This approach is based on the Random Forest algorithm, which is a machine learning technique that enables evidence-based, data-driven decisions and is therefore often used in decision-making processes. Our objective is to provide a straightforward modeling approach that, without requiring cost-intensive assessments, can be applied in the early stages of REDD+, for a stepwise implementation approach of REDD+ projects in regions with limited availability of data, capital, technical infrastructure, or human capacities. The presented model focuses on building business-as-usual scenarios to identify and rank potentially suitable areas for REDD+ interventions. For validation purposes we applied the model to data from Nicaragua.
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