Skip to Main Content
U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Home > Search > Publication Information

  1. Share via EmailShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter
    Dislike this pubLike this pub
    Author(s): Yasmin Lucero; E. Ashley SteelKelly M. BurnettKelly Christiansen
    Date: 2011
    Source: River Systems. 19(3): 207-224
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (3.0 MB)


    Increasingly, ecologists seek to identify and quantify relationships between landscape gradients and aquatic ecosystems. Considerable statistical challenges emerge in this effort, some of which are attributable to multicollinearity between human development and landscape gradients. In this paper, we measure the covariation between human development—such as agriculture and urbanization—and natural landscape gradients—such as valley form, climate and geology. With a dataset of wade-able streams from coastal Oregon (USA), we use linear regression to quantify covariation between human activities and landscape gradients. We show that the correlation between human development and natural landscape gradients varies dramatically with the scale of observation. Similarly, we show how the correlation varies by legion, even within a scale of interest. We then use a simulation experiment to demonstrate how this inherent covariation can hinder statistical efforts to identify mechanistic links between landscape gradients and features of aquatic ecosystems. We illustrate the negative consequences of the underlying correlation structure for statistical efforts: inflated goodness-of-fit metrics and inflated error terms on key coefficients that may undermine model building. We conclude by discussing the current best statistical practices for dealing with multicollinearity as well as the limitations of existing statistical tools.

    Publication Notes

    • You may send email to to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • (Please specify exactly which publication you are requesting and your mailing address.)
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Lucero, Yasmin; Steel, E. Ashley; Burnett, Kelly M.; Christiansen, Kelly. 2011. Untangling human development and natural gradients: implications of underlying correlation structure for linking landscapes and riverine ecosystems. River Systems. 19(3): 207-224.


    multicollinearity, regression, scale, human impacts, streams, fish

    Related Search

    XML: View XML
Show More
Show Fewer
Jump to Top of Page