Learning to forecast vegetation greenness at fine resolution over Africa with ConvLSTMs (Papers Track)

Claire Robin (Biogeochemical Integration, Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany); Christian Requena-Mesa (Computer Vision Group, Friedrich Schiller University Jena; DLR Institute of Data Science, Jena; Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena); Vitus Benson (Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry); Jeran Poehls (Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry); Lazaro Alonzo (Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry); Nuno Carvalhais (Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry); Markus Reichstein (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena; Michael Stifel Center Jena for Data-Driven and Simulation Science, Jena)

Paper PDF Slides PDF Recorded Talk NeurIPS 2022 Poster Topia Link Cite
Computer Vision & Remote Sensing Agriculture & Food Ecosystems & Biodiversity Extreme Weather Time-series Analysis


Forecasting the state of vegetation in response to climate and weather events is a major challenge. Its implementation will prove crucial in predicting crop yield, forest damage, or more generally the impact on ecosystems services relevant for socio-economic functioning, which if absent can lead to humanitarian disasters. Vegetation status depends on weather and environmental conditions that modulate complex ecological processes taking place at several timescales. Interactions between vegetation and different environmental drivers express responses at instantaneous but also time-lagged effects, often showing an emerging spatial context at landscape and regional scales. We formulate the land surface forecasting task as a strongly guided video prediction task where the objective is to forecast the vegetation developing at very fine resolution using topography and weather variables to guide the prediction. We use a Convolutional LSTM (ConvLSTM) architecture to address this task and predict changes in the vegetation state in Africa using Sentinel-2 satellite NDVI, having ERA5 weather reanalysis, SMAP satellite measurements, and topography (DEM of SRTMv4.1) as variables to guide the prediction. Ours results highlight how ConvLSTM models can not only forecast the seasonal evolution of NDVI at high resolution, but also the differential impacts of weather anomalies over the baselines. The model is able to predict different vegetation types, even those with very high NDVI variability during target length.

Recorded Talk (direct link)