Tropical deforestation in Madagascar: analysis using hierarchical spatially explicit, Bayesian regression models

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Ecological Modelling
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Jun 10
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Establishing cause-effect relationships for deforestation at various scales has proven difficult even when rates of deforestation appear well documented. There is a need for better explanatory models, which also provide insight into the process of deforestation. We propose a novel hierarchical modeling specification incorporating spatial association. The hierarchical aspect allows us to accommodate misalignment between the land-use (response) data layer and explanatory data layers. Spatial structure seems appropriate due to the inherently spatial nature of land use and data layers explaining land use. Typically, there will be missing values or holes in the response, data. To accommodate this we propose an imputation strategy. We apply our modeling approach to develop a novel deforestation model for the eastern wet forested zone of Madagascar, a global rain forest "hot spot". Using five data layers created for this region, we fit a suitable spatial hierarchical model. Though fitting such models is computationally much more demanding than fitting more standard models, we show that the resulting interpretation is much richer. Also, we employ a model choice criterion to argue that our fully Bayesian model performs better than simpler ones. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work that applies hierarchical Bayesian modeling techniques to study deforestation processes. We conclude with a discussion of our findings and an indication of the broader ecological applicability of our modeling style. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


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DOI 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2004.11.023