Species-level tree crown maps improve predictions of tree recruit abundance in a tropical landscape

Cristina Barber, Sarah J. Graves, Jefferson S. Hall, Pieter A. Zuidema, Jodi Brandt, Stephanie A. Bohlman, Gregory P. Asner, Mario Bailón, T. Trevor Caughlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Predicting forest recovery at landscape scales will aid forest restoration efforts. The first step in successful forest recovery is tree recruitment. Forecasts of tree recruit abundance, derived from the landscape-scale distribution of seed sources (i.e., adult trees), could assist efforts to identify sites with high potential for natural regeneration. However, previous work revealed wide variation in the effect of seed sources on seedling abundance, from positive to no effect. We quantified the relationship between adult tree seed sources and tree recruits and predicted where natural recruitment would occur in a fragmented, tropical, agricultural landscape. We integrated species-specific tree crown maps generated from hyperspectral imagery and property ownership data with field data on the spatial distribution of tree recruits from five species. We then developed hierarchical Bayesian models to predict landscape-scale recruit abundance. Our models revealed that species-specific maps of tree crowns improved recruit abundance predictions. Conspecific crown area had a much stronger impact on recruitment abundance (8.00% increase in recruit abundance when conspecific tree density increases from zero to one tree; 95% credible interval (CI): 0.80% to 11.57%) than heterospecific crown area (0.03% increase with the addition of a single heterospecific tree, 95% CI: −0.60% to 0.68%). Individual property ownership was also an important predictor of recruit abundance: The best performing model had varying effects of conspecific and heterospecific crown area on recruit abundance, depending on individual property ownership. We demonstrate how novel remote sensing approaches and cadastral data can be used to generate high-resolution and landscape-level maps of tree recruit abundance. Spatial models parameterized with field, cadastral, and remote sensing data are poised to assist decision support for forest landscape restoration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2585
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • agricultural landscape
  • forest landscape restoration
  • hyperspectral imagery
  • lidar data
  • natural regeneration
  • operational species mapping
  • tree crown maps
  • tree recruitment
  • trees outside the forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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