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Accuracy Assessment for a Simulation Model of Amazonian Deforestation


  • Eugenio Arima and Marcellus Caldas were affiliated with Michigan State University during the time the work reported in this article was done.

Correspondence: Department of International Development, Community, and Environment, School of Geography, Clark University, 950 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01610-1477, e-mail: (Pontius); Department of Geography, Michigan State University, 118 Geography Bldg., East Lansing, MI, 48824, e-mail: (Walker), (Aldrich), (Vergara); Department of International Development, Community, and Environment, Clark University, e-mail: (Yao-Kumah); Department of Environmental Studies, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, 300 Pulteney Street, Geneva, NY 14456, e-mail: (Arima); Department of Geography, Kansas State University, 116 Seton Hall, Manhattan, KS 66506-2940, e-mail: (Caldas).


This article describes a quantitative assessment of the output from the Behavioral Landscape Model (BLM), which has been developed to simulate the spatial pattern of deforestation (i.e. forest fragmentation) in the Amazon basin in a manner consistent with human behavior. The assessment consists of eighteen runs for a section of the Transamazon Highway in the lower basin, where the BLM's simulated deforestation map for each run is compared to a reference map of 1999. The BLM simulates the transition from forest to non-forest in a spatially explicit manner in 20-m × 20-m pixels. The pixels are nested within a hierarchical stratification structure of household lots within larger development rectangles that emanate from the Transamazon Highway. Each of the eighteen runs derives from a unique combination of three model parameters. We have derived novel methods of assessment to consider (1) the nested stratification structure, (2) multiple resolutions, (3) a simpler model that predicts deforestation near the highway, (4) a null model that predicts forest persistence, and (5) a uniform model that has accuracy equal to the expected accuracy of a random spatial allocation. Results show that the model's specification of the overall quantity of non-forest is the most important factor that constrains and correlates with accuracy. A large source of location agreement is the BLM's assumption that deforestation within household lots occurs near roads. A large source of location disagreement is the BLM's less than perfect ability to simulate the proportion of deforestation by household lot. This article discusses implications of these results in the context of land change science and dynamic simulation modeling.