Estimating temporal trend in the presence of spatial complexity: A Bayesian hierarchical model for a wetland plant population undergoing restoration

PLoS ONE
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Abstract

Monitoring programs that evaluate restoration and inform adaptive management are important for addressing environmental degradation. These efforts may be well served by spatially explicit hierarchical approaches to modeling because of unavoidable spatial structure inherited from past land use patterns and other factors. We developed Bayesian hierarchical models to estimate trends from annual density counts observed in a spatially structured wetland forb (Camassia quamash [camas]) population following the cessation of grazing and mowing on the study area, and in a separate reference population of camas. The restoration site was bisected by roads and drainage ditches, resulting in distinct subpopulations ("zones") with different land use histories. We modeled this spatial structure by fitting zone-specific intercepts and slopes. We allowed spatial covariance parameters in the model to vary by zone, as in stratified kriging, accommodating anisotropy and improving computation and biological interpretation. Trend estimates provided evidence of a positive effect of passive restoration, and the strength of evidence was influenced by the amount of spatial structure in the model. Allowing trends to vary among zones and accounting for topographic heterogeneity increased precision of trend estimates. Accounting for spatial autocorrelation shifted parameter coefficients in ways that varied among zones depending on strength of statistical shrinkage, autocorrelation and topographic heterogeneity-a phenomenon not widely described. Spatially explicit estimates of trend from hierarchical models will generally be more useful to land managers than pooled regional estimates and provide more realistic assessments of uncertainty. The ability to grapple with historical contingency is an appealing benefit of this approach.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Estimating temporal trend in the presence of spatial complexity: A Bayesian hierarchical model for a wetland plant population undergoing restoration
Series title PLoS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0028635
Volume 6
Issue 12
Year Published 2011
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title PLoS ONE