Land-use models are simplifications of a complex reality whose parameters are expressed using a combination of empirical data and theoretical predictions of the relationships among system components. Decisions regarding data input, resolution, and spatial extent for land-use modeling are inherently difficult, and necessarily based on data availability, the model design, and its intended application. These decisions are further complicated because many of the factors that influence land-use patterns occur across multiple spatial and temporal scales. Fortunately, improvements in data collection techniques, expanding collections of public domain data, and increased data-processing efficiency due to enhanced computer power and spatial data and image-processing software, including geographic information systems (GIS), have enabled a more sophisticated modeling approach that captures both the spatial and scalar characteristics of land-use change. Land-use models increasingly benefit from the expanding capabilities of GIS and database software to facilitate dynamic linkages between model components and data resources.
In addition to the plethora of data collected by government agencies, an array of information resources, from consumer spending patterns and market segmentation to high-resolution satellite imagery, are commercially available. These data are especially useful for understanding and modeling the patterns of individual decisions that influence land-use change. It is paramount to consider, however, that data requirements are accompanied by a parallel need for computer hardware and software, and that fine-resolution data is not always the most suitable for every application. While a coarse spatial scale may prove too general to produce results with a level ofdetail that is meaningful for testing policy alternatives, highresolution data may prove too cumbersome for processing and analysis and ultimately may operate at scales which overstate confidence in our understanding of human and natural systems, and the interaction between the two.
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