Finding the Most Similar Landscape: Automated Control Site Selection Using GIS


Thomas Dilts, M.S. Candidate, University of Nevada-Reno, 775-322-8931,

Peter Weisberg, Assistant Professor, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science, University of Nevada-Reno, 775-784-7573,

Study Dates:

Fall 2006 to Spring 2009

SageSTEP Study Plots:

Seven MileSouth Ruby MountainSpruce MountainMarking Corral

Study Design and Objectives:

This project is designed to test an automated control site selection methodology using GIS.  The project will not involve collecting any additional field data, but rather will utilize existing GIS layers to locate control sites that are similar to treated sites. Criteria used to establish statistical similarity will include several topographic variables, soil texture, metrics describing landscape structure, and pre-burn vegetation. Output (GIS maps) will rank landscape units on the basis of similarity to the treated landscape unit. Such output would help managers and research scientists to identify suitable controls for treated study sites or landscapes, by introducing an objective, transparent process for initially narrowing the search. Researchers hope to develop the method into a useful off-the-shelf tool that will be available within the ArcGIS environment.

Researchers wish to use SageSTEP as our proof of this concept because this project provides a good example of a real-world application for which finding suitable controls is vital, in that treatments cover large areas and replications are relatively few.