Using German forest health monitoring data we investigate the main drivers leading to tree mortality and the association between defoliation and mortality; in particular (a) whether defoliation is a proxy for other covariates (climate, soil, water budget); (b) whether defoliation is a tree response that mitigates the effects of climate change and (c) whether there is a threshold of defoliation which could be used as an early warning sign for irreversible damage. Results show that environmental drivers leading to tree mortality differ by species, but some are always required in the model. The defoliation effect on mortality differs by species but it is always strong and monotonic. There is some evidence that a defoliation threshold exists for spruce, fir and beech. We model tree survival with a smooth additive Cox model allowing for random effects taking care of dependence between neighbouring trees and non-linear functions of spatial time varying and functional predictors on defoliation, climate, soil and hydrology characteristics. Due to the large sample size and large number of parameters, we use parallel computing combined with marginal discretization of covariates. We propose a 'boost forward penalise backward' model selection scheme based on combining component-wise gradient boosting with integrated backward selection.
|Publication status||Published - 5 Oct 2022|