Date of Award
Master of Science
Geography and Environmental Resources
For the past three decades, biologists and geographers have increasingly incorporated geographical information systems to inventory and analyze spatially organized data. The proliferation of computational tools and models for visualizing, processing, and quantifying landscape patterns has continued sometimes without thorough scrutiny and scientific understanding of their benefits and limitations. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the structure and accuracy of the ecological modeling program Land Change Modeler for ArcGIS (LCM) and its analytical methods. A case study rich in land use change at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge was used to focus on the program's ability to utilize imagery at multiple levels of spatial resolution and to quantify landscape change. The case study evaluated the LCM module on three primary criteria 1) inputs and outputs, 2) the impacts of scale and resolution in terms of proposed analytical methods, and 3) program structure, simplicity, flexibility, and function definitions. The study revealed that the module based structure of LCM demands specific inputs which allow for the assessment of landscape change, habitat, and biodiversity. But, the program is difficult to navigate and requires prior knowledge of analytical methods. The study also showed that the appropriate utilization of ecological computational programs should be based upon fundamental concepts of landscape ecology, the intended use of the outputs, and the prior knowledge of the user.
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