Kneib, Thomas; Müller, Jörg; Hothorn, Torsten (2006): Spatial Smoothing Techniques for the Assessment of Habitat Suitability. Sonderforschungsbereich 386, Discussion Paper 492




Precise knowledge about factors influencing the habitat suitability of a certain species forms the basis for the implementation of effective programs to conserve biological diversity. Such knowledge is frequently gathered from studies relating abundance data to a set of influential variables in a regression setup. In particular, generalised linear models are used to analyse binary presence/absence data or counts of a certain species at locations within an observation area. However, one of the key assumptions of generalised linear models, the independence of the observations is often violated in practice since the points at which the observations are collected are spatially aligned. While several approaches have been developed to analyse and account for spatial correlation in regression models with normally distributed responses, far less work has been done in the context of generalised linear models. In this paper, we describe a general framework for semiparametric spatial generalised linear models that allows for the routine analysis of non-normal spatially aligned regression data. The approach is utilised for the analysis of a data set of synthetic bird species in beech forests, revealing that ignorance of spatial dependence actually may lead to false conclusions in a number of situations.