High-resolution maps of redwood distributions could enable strategic land management to satisfy diverse conservation goals, but the currently-available maps of redwood distributions are low in spatial resolution and biotic detail. Classification of airborne imaging spectroscopy data provides a potential avenue for mapping redwoods over large areas and with high confidence. We used airborne imaging spectroscopy data collected over three redwood forests by the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, in combination with field training data and application of a gradient boosted regression tree (GBRT) machine learning algorithm, to map the distribution of redwoods at 2-m spatial resolution. Training data collected from the three sites showed that redwoods have spectral signatures distinct from the other common tree species found in redwood forests. We optimized a gradient boosted regression model for high performance and computational efficiency, and the resulting model was demonstrably accurate (81–98% true positive rate and 90–98% overall accuracy) in mapping redwoods in each of the study sites. The resulting maps showed marked variation in redwood abundance (0–70%) within a 1 square kilometer aggregation block, which match the spatial resolution of currently-available redwood distribution maps. Our resulting high-resolution mapping approach will facilitate improved research, conservation, and management of redwood trees in California.
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