- We show a CNN-based approach to map urban tree species with aerial photographs.
- We tested our approach in a highly diverse tropical urban setting.
- We achieved a 79.3 ± 8.6% of F1-score for mapping nine tree species
- Our approach is helpful to produce urban tree species composition maps.
Spatially explicit information on urban tree species distribution is crucial for green infrastructure management in cities. This information is usually acquired with ground-based surveys, which are time-consuming and usually cover limited spatial extents. The combination of machine learning algorithms and remote sensing images has been hailed as a promising way to map tree species over broad areas. Recently, convolutional neural networks (CNNs), a type of deep learning method, have achieved outstanding results for tree species discrimination in various remote sensing data types. However, there is a lack of studies using CNN-based methods to produce tree species composition maps, particularly for tropical urban settings. Here, we propose a multi-task CNN to map tree species in a highly diverse neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Our network architecture takes an aerial photograph (RGB bands and pixel size = 0.15 m) and delivers two outputs: a semantically segmented image and a distance map transform. In the former, all pixel positions are labeled, while in the latter, each pixel position contains the Euclidean distance to the crown boundary. We developed a post-processing approach that combines the two outputs, and we classified nine and five tree species with an average F1-score of 79.3 ± 8.6% and 87.6 ± 4.4%, respectively. Moreover, our post-processing approach produced a realistic tree species composition map by labeling only pixels of the target species with high class membership probabilities. Our results show the potential of CNNs and aerial photographs to map tree species in highly diverse tropical urban settings, providing valuable insights for urban forest management and green spaces planning.