Evaluating the relationship between ecological and habitat conditions using hierarchical models



Understanding the relationship between an index of biological community state and habitat is important for policy makers and environmental managers. A common approach to modeling this relationship is to use regression. However, this simple method becomes complicated when the data are clustered and have both within-cluster and between-cluster spatial correlation. This article proposes a Bayesian hierarchical model that incorporates both types of spatial correlation. This model yields both an understanding of the within-cluster relationships as well as an overall relationship between these variables. We apply this method to evaluate the relationship between the index of biotic integrity (a common measure of fish condition) and the qualitative habitat evaluation index (a common measure of habitat quality). This method allows us to show that there is a relationship between the biological community state and habitat and that this relationship varies across river basins, while accounting for the within- and between-spatial correlations.

Key Words

Bayesian methods Biological monitoring Ecological health Spatial statistics Stressor-response 


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Copyright information

© International Biometric Society 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mathematics and StatisticsUniversity of North CarolinaWilmington
  2. 2.Department of StatisticsVirginia TechBlacksburg

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