Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mathematics and Statistics


D. Richard Cutler


Joseph V. Koebbe


Daniel C. Coster


Recent emphasis has been placed on merging regional forest inventory data with satellite-based information both to improve the efficiency of estimates of population totals, and to produce regional maps of forest variables. There are numerous ways in which forest class and structure variables may be modeled as functions of remotely sensed variables, yet surprisingly little work has been directed at surveying modem statistical techniques to determine which tools are best suited to the tasks given multiple objectives and logistical constraints. Here, a series of analyses to compare nonlinear and nonparametric modeling techniques for mapping a variety of forest variables, and for stratification of field plots, was conducted using data in the Interior Western United States. The analyses compared four statistical modeling techniques for predicting two discrete and four continuous forest inventory variables. The modeling techniques include generalized additive models (GAMs), classification and regression trees (CARTs), multivariate adaptive regression splines (MARS), and artificial neural networks (ANNs). Alternative stratification schemes were also compared for estimating population totals. The analyses were conducted within six ecologically different regions using a variety of satellite-based predictor variables. The work resulted in the development of an objective modeling box that automatically models spatial response variables as functions of any assortment of predictor variables through the four nonlinear or nonparametric modeling techniques. In comparing the different modeling techniques, all proved themselves workable in an automated environment, though ANNs were more problematic. When their potential mapping ability was explored through a simple simulation, tremendous advantages were seen in use of MARS and ANN for prediction over GAMs, CART, and a simple linear model. However, much smaller differences were seen when using real data. In some instances, a simple linear approach worked virtually as well as the more complex models, while small gains were seen using more complex models in other instances. In real data runs, MARS performed (marginally) best most often for binary variables, while GAMs performed (marginally) best most often for continuous variables. After considering a subjective "ease of use" measure, computing time and other predictive performance measures, it was determined that MARS had many advantages over other modeling techniques. In addition, stratification tests illustrated cost-effective means to improve precision of estimates of forest population totals. Finally, the general effect of map accuracy on the relative precision of estimates of population totals obtained under simple random sampling compared to that obtained under stratified random sampling was established and graphically illustrated as a tool for management decisions.



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