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Analysis of the influence of parameter and scale uncertainties on a local multi-criteria land use evaluation model

Şalap-Ayça, Seda, Jankowski, Piotr
Stochastic environmental research and risk assessment 2018 v.32 no.9 pp. 2699-2719
Conservation Reserve Program, USDA, agricultural land, data collection, environmental factors, land suitability, land use, models, spatial variation, uncertainty, uncertainty analysis
Land use evaluation involves careful consideration of several environmental factors and their relative importance quantified by factor weights. Local multi-criteria evaluation provides a mechanism for computing factor (criteria) weights within local neighborhoods that capture spatial heterogeneity and contribute to more accurate evaluation results. The accuracy of results, however, is tempered by the potential uncertainty of criteria weights. The paper presents a spatially explicit approach to uncertainty and sensitivity analysis of local criteria weights and modeling scale on the variability of model output. The efficacy of the approach is presented on the example of Environmental Benefit Index (EBI) model used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to select environmentally sensitive agricultural areas for conservation. The uncertainty analysis resulted in identifying robust areas for CRP selection characterized by high suitability and low uncertainty. The sensitivity analysis focused on the next-best group of candidates characterized by high suitability and high uncertainty. The results show that there is a relationship between spatial heterogeneity, data representation scale, and the level of uncertainty in the results of EBI model. The sensitivity of model output can be attributed to both the uncertainty of criteria weights and the modeling scale. A potential practical value of this approach is the improved analytical support for land suitability evaluation requiring a consideration of sub-optimal land units (high suitability/high uncertainty). Also, this approach can guide modelling effort by allowing the analyst to visualize spatial distribution and patterns of model output uncertainty and focus data collection on influential model input factors.