Joint Modeling of Climate Niches for Adult and Juvenile Trees

  • Souparno Ghosh
  • Kai Zhu
  • Alan E. Gelfand
  • James S. Clark


Typical ecological gradient analysis for plant species considers variation in the response along a gradient of covariate values, for example, temperature or precipitation. Response is customarily modeled through the presence/absence or a suitable measure of abundance or both. Such analysis enables the creation of a climate niche or range limits for the species using this covariate. Interest often extends to two climate covariates, thus seeking a climate niche in two-dimensional space. It also seeks to learn whether the niche changes over life stages of the species. For instance, is the niche for juveniles different from that for adults? Across the climate domain, where are seedlings relatively more or less abundant than adults? Adult abundance is measured through basal area, juvenile abundance through seedling counts. Our contribution is to describe a coherent modeling approach to address the foregoing objectives. We construct a hierarchical stochastic specification that jointly models juveniles and adults with regard to their two-dimensional climate niches. Joint modeling of the abundance response surfaces is proposed because seedlings and adults are living jointly, competitively and is justified through exploratory analysis. Joint modeling can be challenging when one response is counts and the other is area. We model adult abundance and then juvenile abundance driven by adult abundance. Due to excess zeroes over our study plots, we employ zero-inflated models for both adult and seedling abundance. We demonstrate the benefits of the joint modeling through out-of-sample predictive performance. Our abundance data come from the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis dataset. Our climate data come from the 800 m resolution Parameter-elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model dataset. In order to extract a response to climate, we aggregate FIA plots to ecological subsections. At plot scale, micro-scale covariates explain variation in abundance; at a larger spatial scale, climate covariates can explain variation in abundance.


Abundance Basal area Hierarchical model Mean annual precipitation Mean winter temperature Zero-inflated models 


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Copyright information

© International Biometric Society 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Souparno Ghosh
    • 1
  • Kai Zhu
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Alan E. Gelfand
    • 5
  • James S. Clark
    • 2
  1. 1. Department of Mathematics & StatisticsTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA
  2. 2. Nicholas School of the EnvironmentDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Department of Global EcologyCarnegie Institution for ScienceStanfordUSA
  4. 4.Department of BiologyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  5. 5. Department of Statistical ScienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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