17 Oct 2023
 | 17 Oct 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Learning Extreme Vegetation Response to Climate Forcing: A Comparison of Recurrent Neural Network Architectures

Francesco Martinuzzi, Miguel D. Mahecha, Gustau Camps-Valls, David Montero, Tristan Williams, and Karin Mora

Abstract. Vegetation state variables are key indicators of land-atmosphere interactions characterized by long-term trends, seasonal fluctuations, and responses to weather anomalies. This study investigates the potential of neural networks in capturing vegetation state responses, including extreme behavior driven by atmospheric conditions. While machine learning methods, particularly neural networks, have significantly advanced in modeling nonlinear dynamics, it has become standard practice to approach the problem using recurrent architectures capable of capturing nonlinear effects and accommodating both long and short-term memory. We compare four recurrence-based learning models, which differ in their training and architecture: 1) recurrent neural networks (RNNs), 2) long short-term memory-based networks (LSTMs), 3) gated recurrent unit-based networks (GRUs), and 4) echo state networks (ESNs). While our results show minimal quantitative differences in their performances, ESNs exhibit slightly superior results across various metrics. Overall, we show that recurrent network architectures prove generally suitable for vegetation state prediction yet exhibit limitations under extreme conditions. This study highlights the potential of recurrent network architectures for vegetation state prediction, emphasizing the need for further research to address limitations in modeling extreme conditions within ecosystem dynamics.

Francesco Martinuzzi et al.

Status: open (until 27 Dec 2023)

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Francesco Martinuzzi et al.

Model code and software

Code for machine learning models Francesco Martinuzzi

Francesco Martinuzzi et al.


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Short summary
We investigated how machine learning can forecast extreme vegetation responses to weather. Examining four models, no single one stood out as the best, though "echo state networks" showed minor advantages. Our results indicate that while these tools are able to generally model vegetation states, they face challenges under extreme conditions. This underlines the potential of artificial intelligence in ecosystem modeling, also pinpointing areas that need further research.