14: Decision Trees

MCED Chapter 14


Decision Trees in Ecological Modelling


Marko Debeljak and Sašo Džeroski

Abstract (from the book)

Decision tree learning is among the most popular machine learning techniques used for ecological modelling. Decision trees can be used to predict the value of one or several target (dependent) variables. They are hierarchical structures, where each internal node contains a test on an attribute, each branch corresponding to an outcome of the test, and each leaf node giving a prediction for the value of the class variable. Depending on whether we are dealing with a classification (discrete target) or a regression problem (continuous target), the decision tree is called a classification or a regression tree, respectively. The common way to induce decision trees is the so-called Top-Down Induction of Decision Tress (TDIDT). In this chapter, we introduce different types of decision trees, present basic algorithms to learn them, and give an overview of their applications in ecological modelling. The applications include modelling population dynamics and habitat suitability for different organisms (e.g. soil fauna, red deer, brown bears, bark beetles) in different ecosystems (e.g. aquatic, arable and forest ecosystems) exposed to different environmental pressures (e.g. agriculture, forestry, pollution, global warming).