Multiple-scale prediction of forest loss risk across Borneo

Samuel A. Cushman, Ewan A. Macdonald, Erin L. Landguth, Yadvinder Malhi, David W. Macdonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Context: The forests of Borneo have among the highest biodiversity and also the highest forest loss rates on the planet. Objectives: Our objectives were to: (1) compare multiple modelling approaches, (2) evaluate the utility of landscape composition and configuration as predictors, (3) assess the influence of the ratio of forest loss and persistence points in the training sample, (4) identify the multiple-scale drivers of recent forest loss and (5) predict future forest loss risk across Borneo. Methods: We compared random forest machine learning and logistic regression in a multi-scale approach to model forest loss risk between 2000 and 2010 as a function of topographical variables and landscape structure, and applied the highest performing model to predict the spatial pattern of forest loss risk between 2010 and 2020. We utilized a naïve model as a null comparison and used the total operating characteristic AUC to assess model performance. Results: Our analysis produced five main results. We found that: (1) random forest consistently outperformed logistic regression and the naïve model; (2) including landscape structure variables substantially improved predictions; (3) a ratio of occurrence to non-occurrence points in the training dataset that does not match the actual ratio in the landscape biases the predictions of both random forest and logistic regression; (4) forest loss risk differed between the three nations that comprise Borneo, with patterns in Kalimantan highly related to distance from the edge of the previous frontier of forest loss, while Malaysian Borneo showed a more diffuse pattern related to the structure of the landscape; (5) we predicted continuing very high rates of forest loss in the 2010–2020 period, and produced maps of the expected risk of forest loss across the full extent of Borneo. Conclusions: These results confirm that multiple-scale modelling using landscape metrics as predictors in a random forest modelling framework is a powerful approach to landscape change modelling. There is immense immanent risk to Borneo’s forests, with clear spatial patterns of risk related to topography and landscape structure that differ between the three nations that comprise Borneo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1581-1598
Number of pages18
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • Borneo
  • Forest cover
  • Forest loss
  • Land-use change
  • Logistic regression
  • Random forest
  • Total operating characteristic


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