Land-cover change model validation by an ROC method for the Ipswich watershed, Massachusetts, USA

R. Gil Pontius, Laura C. Schneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

703 Scopus citations


Scientists need a better and larger set of tools to validate land-use change models, because it is essential to know a model's prediction accuracy. This paper describes how to use the relative operating characteristic (ROC) as a quantitative measurement to validate a land-cover change model. Typically, a crucial component of a spatially explicit simulation model of land-cover change is a map of suitability for land-cover change, for example a map of probability of deforestation. The model usually selects locations for new land-cover change at locations that have relatively high suitability. The ROC can compare a map of actual change to maps of modeled suitability for land-cover change. ROC is a summary statistic derived from several two-by-two contingency tables, where each contingency table corresponds to a different simulated scenario of future land-cover change. The categories in each contingency table are actual change and actual non-change versus simulated change and simulated non-change. This paper applies the theoretical concepts to a model of deforestation in the Ipswich watershed, USA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-248
Number of pages10
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jun 2001
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science


  • LUCC
  • Land cover
  • ROC
  • Simulation model
  • Suitability map
  • Validation


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