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Policy interest in socio‐ecological systems has driven attempts to define and map socio‐ecological zones (SEZs), that is, spatial regions, distinguishable by their conjoined social and bio‐geo‐physical characteristics. The state of Idaho, USA, has a strong need for SEZ designations because of potential conflicts between rapidly increasing and impactful human populations, and proximal natural ecosystems. Our Idaho SEZs address analytical shortcomings in previously published SEZs by: (1) considering potential biases of clustering methods, (2) cross‐validating SEZ classifications, (3) measuring the relative importance of bio‐geo‐physical and social system predictors, and (4) considering spatial autocorrelation. We obtained authoritative bio‐geo‐physical and social system datasets for Idaho, aggregated into 5‐km grids = 25 km2, and decomposed these using principal components analyses (PCAs). PCA scores were classified using two clustering techniques commonly used in SEZ mapping: hierarchical clustering with Ward's linkage, and k‐means analysis. Classification evaluators indicated that eight‐ and five‐cluster solutions were optimal for the bio‐geo‐physical and social datasets for Ward's linkage, resulting in 31 SEZ composite types, and six‐ and five‐cluster solutions were optimal for k‐means analysis, resulting in 24 SEZ composite types. Ward's and k‐means solutions were similar for bio‐geo‐physical and social classifications with similar numbers of clusters. Further, both classifiers identified the same dominant SEZ composites. For rarer SEZs, however, classification methods strongly affected SEZ classifications, potentially altering land management perspectives. Our SEZs identify several critical regions of social–ecological overlap. These include suburban interface types and a high desert transition zone. Based on multinomial generalized linear models, bio‐geo‐physical information explained more variation in SEZs than social system data, after controlling for spatial autocorrelation, under both Ward's and k‐means approaches. Agreement (cross‐validation) levels were high for multinomial models with bio‐geo‐physical and social predictors for both Ward's and k‐means SEZs. A consideration of historical drivers, including indigenous social systems, and current trajectories of land and resource management in Idaho, indicates a strong need for rigorous SEZ designations to guide development and conservation in the region. Our analytical framework can be broadly applied in SES research and applied in other regions, when categorical responses—including cluster designations—have a spatial component.
Socio-Ecological Systems
Mapping socio-ecological systems in Idaho:
Spatial patterns and analytical considerations
Ken Aho
| Susan Parsons
| Antonio J. Castro
| Kathleen A. Lohse
Biological Sciences, Idaho State
University, Pocatello, Idaho, USA
Biology and Geology Department,
Andalusian Center for the Assessment
and Monitoring of Global Change
(CAESCG), University of Almeria,
Almería, Spain
Ken Aho
Funding information
Division of Earth Sciences, Grant/Award
Number: EAR-1331872; Office of
Experimental Program to Stimulate
Competitive Research, Grant/Award
Number: IIA-1301792
Handling Editor: Laura L
Policy interest in socio-ecological systems has driven attempts to define and
map socio-ecological zones (SEZs), that is, spatial regions, distinguishable by
their conjoined social and bio-geo-physical characteristics. The state of Idaho,
USA, has a strong need for SEZ designations because of potential conflicts between
rapidly increasing and impactful human populations, and proximal natural ecosys-
by: (1) considering potential biases of clustering methods, (2) cross-validating SEZ
classifications, (3) measuring the relative importance of bio-geo-physical and social
system predictors, and (4) considering spatial autocorrelation. We obtained authori-
tative bio-geo-physical and social system datasets for Idaho, aggregated into 5-km
grids =25 km
, and decomposed these using principal components analyses
(PCAs). PCA scores were classified using two clustering techniques commonly used
in SEZ mapping: hierarchical clustering with Wards linkage, and k-means analysis.
Classification evaluators indicated that eight- and five-cluster solutions were optimal
for the bio-geo-physical and social datasets for Wardslinkage,resultingin31SEZ
composite types, and six- and five-cluster solutions were optimal for k-means analy-
sis, resulting in 24 SEZ composite types. Wardsandk-means solutions were similar
for bio-geo-physical and social classifications with similar numbers of clusters.
Further, both classifiers identified the same dominant SEZ composites. For rarer
SEZs, however, classification methods strongly affected SEZ classifications, poten-
tially altering land management perspectives. Our SEZs identify several critical
regions of socialecological overlap. These include suburban interface types and a
high desert transition zone. Based on multinomial generalized linear models,
bio-geo-physical information explained more variation in SEZs than social system
data, after controlling for spatial autocorrelation, under both Wardsandk-means
approaches. Agreement (cross-validation) levels were high for multinomial models
with bio-geo-physical and social predictors for both Wardsandk-means SEZs. A
consideration of historical drivers, including indigenous social systems, and current
trajectories of land and resource management in Idaho, indicates a strong need for
rigorous SEZ designations to guide development and conservation in the region.
Received: 28 April 2022 Accepted: 13 May 2022
DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.4242
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided
the original work is properly cited.
© 2022 The Authors. Ecosphere published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of The Ecological Society of America.
Ecosphere. 2022;13:e4242. 1of21
Our analytical framework can be broadly applied in SES research and applied in
other regions, when categorical responsesincluding cluster designationshave a
spatial component.
American West, multivariate ecological data, cluster analysis, Moran eigenvector map,
multinomial GLM, land management, spatial analysis
Humans are a part of ecosystems and shape them from
local to global scales (Berkes & Folke, 1998;
Herrero-Jauregui et al., 2019; Liu et al., 2007;
Ostrom, 2009). This reality has driven the development of
socio-ecological system (SES) theory, which considers
topics at the intersection of human societies and natural
(non-anthropogenic) ecosystem components (Bailey, 2009;
Cherkasskii, 1988;Redmanetal.,2004). A critical topic of
interest in SES research is the delineation and mapping of
SES boundaries that delimit socio-ecological zones
(SEZs) to aid in the identification and management of
potentially vulnerable ecosystems (Martín-L
et al., 2017;Winter&Lucas,2017) and their ecosystem
services (Bourne et al., 2016; Maes et al., 2012;
Quintas-Soriano et al., 2018). Here, we define a SEZ to be
a spatial region, distinguishable by its conjoined social
(e.g., socioeconomic, management, land use) and
bio-geo-physical characteristics (e.g., natural communities,
net primary productivity, topography, hydrology).
Despite recent efforts, there is no consensus on how to
analytically delineate and define SES boundaries, or zones
with consistent social and ecological characteristics, orga-
nized by a common set of system variables, and defined by
diverse sets of socio-ecological dynamics (Jones
et al., 2019; Quintas-Soriano et al., 2022). Current SEZ
mapping efforts (e.g., Cruz-Cardenas et al., 2017;Dressel
et al., 2018;Hamannetal.,2015; Hanspach et al., 2016;
Kok et al., 2016;Martín-L
opez et al., 2017;Vallejos
et al., 2019; Zhang et al., 2011) have used a similar
three-step analytical approach (Appendix S1: Figure S1).
Briefly, these are as follows: (1) collection of spatially
referenced social and bio-geo-physical data, followed gen-
erally by application of dimension-reduction methods
(e.g., principal components analysis [PCA]); (2) cluster
analyses to separately identify social and ecological system
types; and (3) synthesis of social and ecological classifica-
tion types into conjoined SEZs, based on spatial overlap.
While providing potentially useful information, this
approach has at least four shortcomings. First, little thought
has been given to the possible predispositions of certain ana-
lytical methods (e.g., particular clustering algorithms, etc.) in
the determination of the final SEZ types (cf. Aho
et al., 2008). Second, the effectiveness of SEZs in explaining
variation in bio-geo-physical and social data, or serving as
a predictive structure for new data is generally unconsidered.
Third, the relative contributions of bio-geo-physical and
social information to SEZ designations has been
unmeasured. Fourth, explicit spatial effects (e.g., spatial auto-
correlation structures) have been ignored. In this article, we
consider these and other analytical issues, and explore poten-
tial solutions, while developing an SEZ map for the state of
Idaho, in the northwestern region of the United States.
Study system
Idaho constitutes a large (216,630 km
), irregularly-shaped
inland area in the northwestern United States (Figure 1).
The state is an excellent candidate for SEZ mapping
because of its strong bio-geo-physical gradients, and
diverse land uses and management designations. Over
61% of Idahos land area is federally owned or adminis-
tered, resulting in varying levels of protection from
private development and potential ecosystem degradation
(Quintas-Soriano et al., 2021). Idaho, however, is economi-
cally reliant on natural resource acquirement and
utilization (>5% 2019 Idaho gross domestic product [GDP];
United States Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2021), and is
one of the most productive agricultural states, contributing
nearly one-third of the potatoes grown in the United States
(Idaho State Department of Agriculture, 2021). Idaho is
also among the fastest growing US states (United States
Census Bureau, 2021), and its capitol, Boise, is the fastest
growing major American metropolitan area, with a 120%
population increase between 1990 and 2015 (Forbes, 2018).
Boise is projected to continue growing due to its relatively
low cost of living, high job growth rates, and quality of life
(Narducci et al., 2019; Quintas-Soriano et al., 2022).
Idahos cultivated cropland and rangeland occur pri-
marily at lower elevations in the southern portion of the
state, including regions along the Snake River plain
(Quintas-Soriano et al., 2018). The northern Idaho
2of21 AHO ET AL.
panhandlehas a maritime climate and large regions of
dense evergreen forests. Central Idaho is dominated by
rugged mountains and contains the Idaho batholith, a
granitic and granodioritic formation encompassing
approximately 25,000 km
. Northern and central Idaho
contain vast tracts of public land, and including, the
largest designated wilderness area in the lower 48 states,
the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness
(9580 km
; United States Forest Service, 2021). Idaho
agricultural economies are likely to be negatively affected
by a number of regional trends including increasing
annual temperatures (Tang et al., 2012), water
scarcity (Castro et al., 2018), invasive plant species
(Shwiff et al., 2018), and reduced steppe fire return inter-
vals (Balch et al., 2013). Further, mountain ecosystems
are expected to experience strong negative effects from
climate change, including loss of biodiversity (Klos
et al., 2014; Kullman, 2004).
The conflation of climate change and rapid popula-
tion growth will likely result in increased vulnerability of
many regions in Idaho to ecosystem degradation, includ-
ing water overexploitation (Castro et al., 2018; Cornell
et al., 2019; Quintas-Soriano et al., 2022). We hope that
SEZ mapping will allow tracking of the Idaho ecological
and socioeconomic landscapes as these changes occur.
This information could then be used to develop effective
strategies for Idaho resource management, including
policies for responsible growth and development
(Alessa et al., 2008; Castellarini et al., 2014; Díaz
et al., 2015; Hamann et al., 2015; Hanspach et al., 2016;
opez et al., 2017; Quintas-Soriano et al., 2018;
Sinare et al., 2016).
Data preparation and dimension reduction
Publicly available authoritative bio-geo-physical and
social system datasets were acquired to describe the state
of Idaho at a scale of 5-km
grids. Bio-geo-physical vari-
ables included those describing climate (i.e., average tem-
perature, annual precipitation, average dew temperature,
and average vapor pressure deficit), topography
(i.e., slope, elevation, and lithology), resident flora and
fauna (i.e., biodiversity and land cover), vegetation pro-
ductivity (normalized difference vegetation index and
potential evapotranspiration), and surficial geology
(i.e., lithology and soil order) (Table 1). In parallel, social
variables described basic demographic information
(i.e., population, race, age, income, education, marital
status, and home ownership), human landscape modifi-
cation (i.e., housing density, traffic density, and human
modification index; Theobald, 2013), and economy
(i.e., land use, industry occupation, and surface manage-
ment agency) (Table 2). Each individual grid was
FIGURE 1 Orientation map of Idaho. Shading in inset based on 10-m digital elevation map. Darker colors indicate lower elevations.
assigned a unique ID, resulting in a data matrix, with
rows representing 8796 grid units and columns
representing bio-geo-physical and social variables.
We ran two PCAs in a nested fashion, for both
bio-geo-physical and social system datasets, to obtain use-
ful variables for subsequent cluster analyses. Initial
covariance matrix-based PCAs were run on sets of vari-
ables that were proportional summaries of related cate-
gorical levels. For instance, the Industry/Occupation
dataset in Table 2provides 5-km grid population summa-
ries for 17 industry/occupation types. Retained dimen-
sions in initial PCAs were required to explain >70% of
variation in raw data (Table 3).
We created final PCAsone each for social and
bio-geo-physical datasetsthat considered both initial
PCA distillations of categorical variables and raw quanti-
tative data. In total, 18 variables were analyzed in the
final bio-geo-physical PCA, and 22 variables were consid-
ered in the final socioeconomic PCA.
We controlled for potential latitudinal and longitu-
locations as variables in the PCA analyses, but when
calculating the matrix of PCA scores, removing latitu-
dinal and longitudinal loadings from both the scaled
npdata matrix, X,andtheppmatrix of variable
loadings, E, prior to obtaining scores using the
inner product, XE (Legendre & Legendre, 2012). Thus,
we held spatial locations constant while using
location-adjusted loadings from other variables to gen-
erate final PCA principal components. Correlation
matrices were used to generate final PCAs to account
for the highly variable scales of measurement. To gen-
erate final datasets for subsequent cluster analysis,
principal components were retained in the final PCAs
until at least 90% of the variation in the analyzed
datasets was described. This resulted in 11 dimensions
being retained in bio-geo-physical PCA (94.2% varia-
tion explained) and 14 dimensions being retained in
the social system PCA (92.3% variation explained)
(Appendix S1: Figures S1S9). Eigenvector loadings for
all predictors in initial PCAs and the two final PCAs
are given in Appendix S1: Figures S3S8.
TABLE 1 Raw bio-geo-physical variables used in the analyses.
Variable Description Source Resolution
Elevation (m) Digital elevation model (DEM) NED 10 m
Slope (090) Obtained from DEM NED 10 m
Dew temperature (C) 30-year average annual mean PRISM 19812010 1 km
Temperature (C) 30-year average annual mean PRISM 19812010 1km
Vapor pressure deficit (hectopascals) 30-year average annual median PRISM 19812010 1km
Precipitation (average mm/month) 30-year average annual mean PRISM 19812010 1km
Potential evapotranspiration
10-year average annual mean MODIS 20002010 1km
NDVI NDVI =(actual NDVI 200) +50 MODIS 20012006 250 m
Land cover
Land cover types NLCD 2011 30 m
Basic rock types MRData Variable vector
Soil order
Soil order SSURGO (2022),
STATSGO2 (2022)
Variable vector
Organismal species counts,
Jenkins (2022),
Jenkins et al. (2013),
Pimm et al. (2014)
10 km
Note: Footnoted entries indicate datasets that were proportional summaries of related categorical levels, which were analyzed in initial (nested) principal
components analyses. See Appendix S2 for lithology and soil order summaries.
Abbreviations: MODIS, Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS, 2022); MRdata, Mineral Resources Online Spatial Data (MRData, 2022);
NDVI, normalized difference vegetation index; NED, National Elevational Dataset (NED, 2018); NLCD, National Land Cover Database (NLCD, 2022); PRISM,
Panchromatic Remote-sensing Instrument for Stereo Mapping (PRISM, 2015); SSURGO, Soil Survey Geographic Database (SSURGO, 2022); STATSGO2,
Digital General Soil Map of the United States (STATSGO2, 2022).
Herbaceous wetlands, woody wetland, deciduous forest, evergreen forest, mixed forest, shrub and scrub, grassland, open water, and ice and snow.
Sedimentary, igneous, metamorphic, and unconsolidated.
Alfisol, andisol, aridisol, entisol, inceptisol, mollisol, and vertisol.
Amphibians, fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, and trees.
4of21 AHO ET AL.
TABLE 2 Raw social system datasets used in the analyses.
Variable Description Source Resolution
Population size ACS 20082012, average US Census Bureau Census Block Groups
Median age ACS 20082012, average US Census Bureau Census Block Groups
High school degrees ACS 20082012, percentage US Census Bureau Census Block Groups
Bachelor degrees ACS 20082012, percentage US Census Bureau Census Block Groups
Aggregate income/household ACS 20082012, average US Census Bureau Census Block Groups
Housing units ACS 20082012, average US Census Bureau Census Block Groups
Owner occupied homes/ha ACS 20082012, average US Census Bureau Census Block Groups
Married with children/ha ACS 20082012, percentage US Census Bureau Census Block Groups
Divorced/ha ACS 20082012, percentage US Census Bureau Census Block Groups
Traffic density 2011 Daily average ITD Polyline, then 1 km
Human modification index Index of 01 for North America Kennedy et al. (2019) 230 m
Industry occupation
ACS 20082012, percentage US Census Bureau Census Block Groups
Management agency
Stewardship agency or ownership ISMA 2002 variable vector
Land use
Land use types NLCD 30 m
ACS 20082012, Average US Census Bureau Census Block Groups
Note: Footnoted entries indicate datasets that were proportional summaries of related categorical levels and which were analyzed in initial (nested) principal
components analyses (Table 3).
Abbreviations: ACS, American Community Survey (ACS, 2022); ISMA, Idaho Surface Management Agency (ISMA, 2022); ITD, Idaho Transportation
Department (ITD, 2022); NLCD, National Land Cover Database (NLCD, 2022).
ManagementBusinessFinancial, ComputerEngineeringScience, EducationLegalArtsMedia, HealthcareTechnical, HealtcareSupport, ProtectiveService,
FoodPrepServing, CleaningMaintenance, PersonalCareService, Sales, AdministrativeSupport, FarmingFishingForestry, ConstructionExtraction,
InstallMaintainRepair, Production, Transportation, and MaterialMoving.
BLM, USFS, PRIVATE, STATE, NPS, BOR, DOE, IR =Indigenous Reservation, and OTHER.
Cultivated, pasture and hay, high intensity development, low intensity development, medium intensity development, designated open space.
Asian, Black, Hawaiian/Pacific, Latin, Mixed race, Indigenous, White, and Other.
TABLE 3 Principal components retained in initial principal components analyses (PCAs) (based on proportional summaries of
categorical data) and final bio-geo-physical and social system PCAs (that used both scores from initial PCAs and quantitative data).
PCA model No. original variables Dimensions retained
Percentage of variance explained in
retained dimensions
Initial PCAs
Biodiversity 6 3 80.6
Land cover 9 2 89.0
Soil order 7 3 87.1
Lithology 4 2 80.8
Final PCA 18 11 94.2
Initial PCAs
Industry occupation 17 7 70.5
Management agency 9 2 87.3
Land use 6 1 93.7
Race/ethnicity 8 2 98.1
Final PCA 22 14 92.3
We classified scores of the final PCAs of
bio-geo-physical and social system datasets using
both agglomerative hierarchical classification with
Wards linkage (Ward, 1963)andk-means analysis
(MacQueen, 1967). We chose these classifiers because
they are the most frequently used clustering methods
in SES mapping efforts (Cervantes-Jiménez et al., 2017;
Hamann et al., 2015;Koketal.,2016; Jones et al.,
opez et al., 2017; Zhang et al., 2011),
and because they are frequently applied in the cluster-
ing of PCA scores (Gardner, 1991;Mimuraetal.,2013).
Preceding classification, scores from final PCAs were
weighted by multiplying principal componentsscores
by their corresponding eigenvalues. The algorithm of
Hartigan and Wong (1979)wasusedink-means analy-
sis (Hartigan & Wong, 1979).
Cluster evaluation
To determine an optimum number of clusters gener-
ated by classifiers, we applied three classification eval-
uators to the 24 simplest classification solutions (225
clusters) of the bio-geo-physical and social system
synthetic (PCA score) datasets. The classification eval-
uators were as follows: (1) the within-to-between ratio
(McClain & Rao, 1975); (2) Dunns index (Dunn, 1974);
and (3) the CalinskiHarabasz index (Calinski &
Harabasz, 1974). In order to examine the correspon-
dence/incongruence of classification solutions from
Wardsandk-means analysis, we calculated the per-
cent agreement of grid assignments to clusters using
contingency tables, for both the bio-geo-physical and
socioeconomic clustering solutions. Percentage agree-
ment and permutational significance tests were
obtained using the function best agreement from the
R-package asbio (Aho, 2020). To address computa-
tional constraints imposed by the large grid matrix,
only 100 iterations were used in permutation testing.
Socio-ecological zone designation
Because a common 5 km grid system was used for clus-
ter analyses of both the bio-geo-physical and socioeco-
nomic datasets, we were able to efficiently overlay
corresponding maps of the bio-geo-physical and social
system cluster regions. This resulted in SEZ compos-
ites, with certain zones potentially implying manage-
ment concerns or higher levels of sustainability than
others (Winter & Lucas, 2017).
Quantifying spatial autocorrelation
Moran eigenvector maps
To define potential spatial autocorrelation patterns
and effects at multiple spatial scales, we generated
distance-based Moran eigenvectorsmaps(dbMEMs)
(Griffith, 1996) from the spatial coordinates of grid centroids.
For the required truncation threshold value, we used the
length of the largest edge from a minimum spanning span
of the grid-centroid-based Euclidean distance matrix (see
Legendre & Legendre, 2012, p. 863). Other methods for the
generation of dbMEMs are described by Dray et al. (2018).
By definition, we obtained 8796 distance-based MEM
eigenvectors, reflecting the number of unique grids.
However, only the first 4392 dbMEMs had positive eigen-
values (Figure 2). Following convention (Legendre &
Legendre, 2012), we limited our spatial autocorrelation
considerations to dbMEMs with positive eigenvalues.
Loadings for the first 25 dbMEMs are overlain on
our Idaho grid system in Figure 2. Darker colors indicate
larger positive eigenanalysis scores for grids. Note that
lower dimensional dbMEMs represent broadscale auto-
correlation patterns, whereas higher dimensions repre-
sent autocorrelation structures at increasingly finer
spatial scales (Borcard et al., 2004).
Partitioning effects of predictors on SEZs
To quantify the explanatory contributions of
bio-geo-physical and social system predictors to the gener-
ation of SEZs, while controlling for spatial autocorrelation,
we used multinomial generalized linear models (GLMs)
(Venables & Ripley, 2002). Specifically, we fit SEZ types as
a simultaneous function of final bio-geo-physical PCA
scores for principal components 111 (see above), final
social system PCA scores for principal components 114
(see above), and dbMEMs (representing multiscale spatial
autocorrelation structures). Only the first 25 dbMEMs
(Figure 2) had appreciable levels of association with
SEZ composite classes under either Wards linkage
(Appendix S1: Figure S19) or k-means (Appendix S1:
Figure S20) classifiers. Thus, for computational efficiency,
only these dbMEMs were used to represent spatial auto-
correlation in multinomial models. Under this approach,
the full (saturated) multinomial model had 49 predictors,
representing bio-geo-physical (11 predictors), social (14 pre-
dictors), and spatial processes (25 predictors). Because they
each resulted from eigenanalyses, model predictors (PCA
scores) representing these individual processes were statis-
tically independent.
To quantify multinomial model efficacy, we calcu-
lated Efrons pseudo-R
(Efron, 1978), adjusted for the
6of21 AHO ET AL.
number of parameters in GLMs, using an extension pro-
posed by Zhang (2017):
pseudo-adj ¼1devres=npðÞ
where dev
is the residual deviance (minus two times
the model log-likelihood) and dev
is the null deviance,
that is, the deviance in an intercept-only model. We mea-
sured the partial explanatory power of bio-geo-physical
and social predictors when controlling for the effect of
the other predictor, and/or controlling for spatial auto-
correlation (dbMEMs), using a surrogate of the partial R
statistic based on deviance:
dev-partial ¼
pseudo-adj,full R2
where R
represents the deviance-based partial
indicates the adjusted pseudo-R
(Equation 1) for a reference model that includes the
predictor(s) of interest, and R
indicates the
adjusted pseudo-R
of a nested model that excludes
only the predictor(s) of interest. Equation 2can be justi-
fied on the grounds that residual deviance is a general-
ized form of model error (equivalent to the residual of
squares [SSE] in conventional general linear models)
(Aho, 2013), and substitution of SSE for residual deviance
in Equation 2results in the conventional formulation for
partial R
We validated our SEZ composite classification by
comparing multinomial predicted grid SEZs for differ-
ent subsets of predictors to corresponding mapped
Wardsandk-means SEZs. Agreement was measured
using percent agreement, the kappa statistic ( b
Congalton & Mead, 1983), and user and producer
FIGURE 2 The first 25 distance-based Moran eigenvector maps (dbMEMs) for analysis of Idaho 5-km grids. Darker colors indicate
larger positive loadings in Moran eigenvectors.
accuracy for individual SEZs. For the latter three mea-
sures, the mapped SEZs were used as the reference
For all GIS applications, including the generation of
maps with SEZ composite overlays, we used ESRI
ArcGIS for Desktop 10.8 (
home). The R statistical environment (R Core
Team, 2020) was used for most statistical analyses. The
function princomp from the stats package was used to
generate PCAs. The functions hclust and k-means
from the stats package were used to generate Wards
linkage and k-means classifications, respectively.
The package fpc (Hennig, 2020) was used to imple-
ment classification evaluators. The package nnet
(Venables & Ripley, 2002) was used to create multino-
mial models. Functions from the package asbio
(Aho, 2020) were used to measure and test agreement
between Wardsandk-means classifications and to
calculate b
Kand other error matrix statistics for SEZ-type
Cluster evaluation
We attempted to identify optimalclassification solu-
tions with an intermediate (>2) number of clusters,
whose efficacy was supported by several evaluators
(cf. Aho et al., 2008). Classification evaluator results for
Wards linkage are shown in Figure 3. We chose eight-
and five-cluster solutions as relatively effective prunings
of the Wards linkage classifications of bio-geo-physical
and social datasets, respectively (Figure 3), and chose six-
and five-cluster solutions for k-means analyses of
bio-geo-physical and social system datasets, respectively
(Appendix S1: Figure S13).
We named bio-geo-physical types based on their gen-
eral topography and physiognomy (Appendices S2 and S4).
Wards bio-geo-physical types were as follows: (1) shrub
FIGURE 3 Standardized cluster evaluator scores for Wards linkage classification of the biophysical and sociological datasets. Mean
evaluator scores are shown as a thickened black line. The eight-cluster solution from the biophysical dataset (deemed effective by the
CalinskiHarabasz [C-H] index, and particularly the Dunn index) and the five-cluster solution from the socioeconomic dataset (deemed
particularly effective by the CalinskiHarabasz index) are indicated with dashed lines. W/B ratio, within-to-between ratio.
8of21 AHO ET AL.
steppe, (2) arid foothills, (3) river plain, (4) valley, (5) arid
mountains, (6) maritime mountains, (7) lowland forest,
and (8) upland forest (Figure 4). The k-means
bio-geo-physical types were as follows: (1) shrub steppe,
(2) arid foothills, (3) river plain, (4) arid mountains,
(5) maritime mountains, and (6) forest (Figure 4).
The k-means bio-geo-physical types were largely equiva-
lent to or spatial conflations of Wards types. For
instance, river plain and valley types and lowland
forest and upland forest types from the Wards classifica-
tion were combined into single river plain and forest
types in the k-means classification (Figure 4). We
named social system types based largely on their
management and human population densities
(Appendices S2, S3, and S5). We designated Wards social
system types as follows: (1) dry agriculture/public land,
(2) rural public lands, (3) exurban and rural/private
land, (4) urban, and (5) high-density urban (Figure 5).
The k-means social system types provided poorer
resolution of heavily urbanized regions (the Wards
high-density urban type was not detected by k-means)
but greater resolution of sparsely populated areas with
an additional rural low-income type in central Idaho
(Figure 5).
Summaries of Wards and k-means bio-geo-physical
types, including species richness, physical characteristics,
physiognomy, parent material, and soil order, are given
in Appendix S4. Summaries of Wards and k-means social
system types, including census means, ownership/
management, and workforce types, are given in
Appendix S5.
The largest (in land area) bio-geo-physical types for
the Wards optimal classification were shrub steppe
(48,800 km
) and arid mountains (41,025 km
). These
same types had the largest areas under k-means analysis
of the bio-geo-physical dataset (49,550 and 44,650 km
respectively). The largest social system types under the
Wards classification were dryland agriculture/public
land (128,425 km
) and rural public land (68,200 km
These types also had the largest areas under k-means
FIGURE 4 Overlay of the optimal Ward and k-means classification results for the bio-geo-physical dataset: (a) eight-cluster Wards
solution and (b) six-cluster k-means solution.
analysis, although their rank order was reversed
(85,800 and 95,750 km
, respectively).
Agreement in the assignment of particular grids to
clusters was generally high for Wardsandk-means classi-
fications, particularly for solutions with few clusters, or a
similar number of clusters (Figure 6). Percent agreement
for solutions with the same cluster number ranged from
62% (7 clusters) to 94% (2 clusters) for the bio-geo-physical
dataset, and from 63% (3 and 9 clusters) to 95% (4 clusters)
for the social dataset (Figure 6). Percent agreement in all
tested comparisons of Wardsandk-means classification
solutions with the same number of clusters was statisti-
cally significant at α< 0.01. Agreement between optimal
clustering solutions, as defined by classification evaluators,
was 73%, between Wards (eight clusters) and k-means
(six clusters) solutions for the bio-geo-physical dataset, and
87% between Wards method (five clusters) and k-means
(five clusters) solutions for the social system dataset.
Percent agreement in these comparisons was also statisti-
cally significant at α<0.05.
Socio-ecological zones
Spatially overlaying solutions from social-
bio-geo-physical classifications resulted in 31 SEZ com-
posite classes from Wards classifications and 24 SEZ
composite classes for the k-means classifications
(Figure 7). Unlike simpler individual bio-geo-physical
and social system classifications, SEZ composite classes
for k-means and Wards were no longer clear spatial
re-representations of each other (maximum
agreement 50%; Figure 7). Differences in k-means and
Wards SEZs were largely due to additional classes in
optimal Wards classifications of bio-geo-physical and
social system datasets (Figures 5and 6). The Wards and
k-means frameworks generally agreed with respect to the
characteristics of dominant SEZs. For example, the two
largest SEZs under each method were as follows: arid
mountains/rural public lands (Wards=27,200 km
k-means =40,400 km
) and shrub steppe/dryland agri-
culture and public land (Wards=40,625 km
FIGURE 5 Overlay of the optimal Ward and k-means classification results for the social system dataset: (a) five-cluster Wards solution
and (b) four-cluster k-means solution.
10 of 21 AHO ET AL.
k-means =28,925 km
) (Figure 7). The characteristics
of Wards and k-means SEZs are summarized in
Appendix S3.
Partitioning SEZ variability in multinomial
We quantified the explanatory contributions of
bio-geo-physical, social predictors to SEZs, while controlling
for spatial autocorrelation, using multinomial GLMs. For
both Wardsandk-means SEZs, the optimal approximating
multinomial model (low AIC model) included only
bio-geo-physical and socialsystempredictors(Tables4and
5). Levels of explained variation remained high for
bio-geo-physical and social system predictors after controlling
for spatial effects for both Wardslinkage(bio-geo-physical:
devpartial ¼0:77, social system: R2
devpartial ¼0:58) and
k-means analyses (bio-geo-physical: R2
devpartial ¼0:82,
social system: R2
devpartial ¼0.64) of SEZs (Tables 4and 5).
Conversely, spatial effects were extremely small after
controlling for both bio-geo-physical and social predictors
(Ward: R2
devpartial ¼0.39, k-means: R2
devpartial 0). Thus,
with respect to individual explanatory variable subsets,
bio-geo-physical variables had greater explanatory power
for SEZs than social system variables, and both of these
had greater explanatory power than spatial autocorrela-
tion considered alone.
In multinomial models that considered SEZ compos-
ites as a function of only individual scales of spatial auto-
correlation (dbMEMs), the largest levels of explained
variation occurred for the third dbMEM in both Wards
linkage (R2
pseudo-adj ¼0.1147; Appendix S1: Figure S19)
and k-means analysis (R2
pseudo-adj ¼0.1153; Appendix S1:
Figure S20) of SEZs. Loadings for this dbMEM demon-
strated large-scale patterns in spatial proximity that sepa-
rated central Idaho from regions in north-central and
southwest Idaho (Figure 2).
Multinomial predicted types had high correspondence
with mapped SEZs in cross-validation checks (Tables 6and 7).
For Wards SEZs, the bio-geo-physical +social
system model demonstrated 93.6% agreement (b
mean user accuracy =95%, mean producer accuracy =
96%), while for the (simpler) k-mean classifications,
this model resulted in 100% agreement between
model predictions and mapped composite SEZs (b
mean user accuracy =100%, mean producer accuracy =
100%). Better correspondence between multinomial
predictions and mapped composite SEZs occurred for
bio-geo-physical variables alone (Wards=75% agree-
ment; k-means =81%), than for social system variables
alone (Wards=56% agreement; k-means =63%).
User (commission) error rates were consistently
lower than producer (omission) error rates across multi-
nomial models for both Wardsandk-means SEZs
(Tables 6and 7). When using both bio-geo-physical and
social predictors, the lowest levels of user and producer
accuracy for WardsSEZsoccurredforshrub
steppe/rural public lands (92.3% user, 96.8% producer),
maritime mountains/dryland agriculture_public lands
(92.4% user, 95.5% producer), and arid foothills/rural
public lands (93.8% user, 93.4% producer). As noted
above, the simpler k-means SEZs had 100% user and
producer accuracy for all types when using both
bio-geo-physical and social predictors.
The delineation and mapping of SESs boundaries have
been garnering attention from SES researchers and land
FIGURE 6 Maximum agreement of Wards and k-means
classification of grids, for 210 cluster solutions, for the
(a) bio-geo-physical data and (b) social systems data.
ECOSPHERE 11 of 21
FIGURE 7 Bio-geo-physical and social system composite SEZs for (a) Wards and (b) k-means classifications. See Appendices S2S5 for
additional details, including percentages of SEZs under different land stewardship categories. SEZ, socio-ecological zone.
12 of 21 AHO ET AL.
managers as a way to consider and quantify the societal
dependence on ecological life-support systems (Castro
et al., 2011; Maass et al., 2016; Quintas-Soriano
et al., 2018). Few studies, however, have explicitly identi-
fied multiple, overlapping SESs boundaries for a region
of interest (Jones et al., 2019; Martín-L
opez et al., 2017).
TABLE 4 Results from multinomial fits of SEZ categories to spatial, bio-geo-physical, and distance-based Moran eigenvector map
(dbMEM) data explanatory subsets to Wards linkage SEZ composites
Model ΔAIC R
SEZ =bio-geo-phys +social +spatial 612 0.96
SEZ =bio-geo-phys +social 0 0.94
SEZ =bio-geo-phys +spatial 4034 0.86
SEZ =social +spatial 8019 0.79
SEZ =bio-geo-phys 6626 0.77 0.72 (controlling for spatial)
SEZ =social 16,038 0.58 0.53 (controlling for spatial)
SEZ =spatial 17,179 0.57 0.50 (controlling for social and
SEZ =1 42,979 0.00
Abbreviation: AIC, Akaike information criterion.
SEZ =socio-ecological zone designations based on Wards-linkage classifications; social =principal components 111 from final social PCA;
bio-geo-phys =principal components 114 from final bio-geo-physical PCA; spatial =MEMdbs 125; SEZ =1 refers to an intercept-only model.
TABLE 5 Results from multinomial fits SEZ categories to spatial, biophysical, and distance-based Moran eigenvector map (dbMEM)
explanatory data subsets to k-means classification SEZ composites
Model ΔAIC R
SEZ =bio-geo-phys +social +spatial 1100 1.00
SEZ =bio-geo-phys +social 0 1.00
SEZ =bio-geo-phys +spatial 5553 0.89
SEZ =social +spatial 7492 0.84
SEZ =bio-geo-phys 7935 0.81 0.74 (controlling for spatial)
SEZ =social 14,460 0.66 0.63 (controlling for spatial)
SEZ =spatial 18,844 0.57 0 (controlling for social and
SEZ =1 43,234 0.00
Abbreviation: AIC, Akaike information criterion.
SEZ =socio-ecological zone designations, based on k-means classifications; social =principal components 111 from final social PCA;
bio-geo-phys =principal components 114 from final bio-geo-physical PCA; spatial =MEMdbs 125. SEZ =1 refers to an intercept-only model.
TABLE 6 Cross-validation of Wards mapped socio-ecological zone (SEZ) composites and multinomial predicted types for different
multinomial models.
Model Agreement (%) b
KUser (%) Producer (%)
SEZ =bio-geo-phys +social +spatial 98.5 98.3 99.4 99.5
SEZ =bio-geo-phys +social 96.3 96.0 97.8 98.1
SEZ =bio-geo-phys +spatial 88.4 87.2 82.7 87.9
SEZ =social +spatial 79.4 77.2 86.7 87.9
SEZ =bio-geo-phys 78.5 76.2 57.0 74.1
SEZ =social 59.5 55.0 67.5 74.1
SEZ =spatial 58.5 53.8 41.9 59.3
Krefers to the kappa classification statistic. User and producer accuracy refer to mean user and producer percent accuracy.
ECOSPHERE 13 of 21
While SES boundaries are dynamic time and space, we
hope that defining current SES boundaries in Idaho will
allow the identification and tracking of socio-ecological
dynamics in one of the most rapidly growing regions in
the United States (Quintas-Soriano et al., 2022).
Our analytical approach addresses a number of defi-
ciencies in other SES studies. Specifically, it: (1) considers
the accumulated effects of clustering algorithm predilec-
tions on SEZ designations, (2) applies cross-validation
measures to SEZs, (3) quantifies the relative explanatory
contributions of bio-geo-physical and social system pre-
dictors in defining SEZs, and (4) quantifies and accounts
for spatial autocorrelation effects on SEZs. Components
of our approach may be useful in other ecological settings
when multinomial responses resulting from multivariate
analyses, for example, clustering solutions, have a spatial
In our study, Wards and k-means classifications of
individual bio-geo-physical and social system datasets
were quite similar (Figure 6). Indeed, these similarities
led to the recognition of the same dominant SEZs in both
classifiers, namely arid mountains/rural public lands,
shrub steppe/dryland agriculture and public land, and
arid foothills/dryland agriculture and public land
(Figure 7). In contrast, composite SEZs generated by
Wards linkage and k-means analysis were relatively distinct,
particularly at fine spatial scales. The WardsSEZsoffered
greater spatial resolution, and higher cross-validation error
rates, due to a larger number of optimal bio-geo-physical
and social system clusters (Table 5). Thus, for our applica-
tion, k-meansSEZsmaybemoreappropriateforquestions
concerning coarser spatial scales.
Much of Idahos human population occurs in
urban-to-rural networks of mid-sized cities that have
tighter urban-to-rural feedback and less inertia to develop-
ment than larger cities (Allen et al., 2016;Feltetal.,2018).
Urbanization of agricultural land is the dominant land use
change in Idaho, altering historical feedback between local
resource production and consumption (Hubbard, 2017;
Quintas-Soriano et al., 2022). Our WardsSEZsmaybe
particularly useful for examining these trends. For exam-
ple, in the northern portion of Ada County, which con-
tains the state capital, urban dynamics are predominant.
Within this environment, Wards SEZs clearly distinguish
high-density urban and suburban types (Figure 5), and
thus could be useful for addressing city planning objectives
and establishing comparative baselines for urban/exurban
trends. The southern portion of Ada County is composed
mostly of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land with
interspaced parcels of state land. On the other hand, the
k-means SEZs often provided greater resolution of sparsely
populated areas, particularly in southern Idaho. For
instance, k-means types identify important intersections of
exurbia/private lands and forests in the south-central por-
tion of the state. In this case, discrepancies in SEZ bound-
aries could affect efforts to effectively manage BLM lands
for ranching, hunting, and other recreation purposes, given
the high demand for these ecosystem services from the
affluent populations living in the greater Boise metropolitan
area (Narducci et al., 2019; Quintas-Soriano et al., 2022).
As Idaho mid-sized cities continue to grow and agricul-
tural conversion to urban areas continues, increasing
efforts will be required to manage land resources and
water supplies. Particularly pressing are issues including
storm water runoff, aquifer vulnerability, septic system
integrity, sewage systems, and human impacts to riparian
areas. In this context, SEZs designations could guide con-
servation/development of riparian and agricultural land
for multiple ecosystem services. For example, Huang et al.
(2019) found that designation and conservation of riparian
areas through the US Department of Agriculture
Conservation Reserve Program helped maintain freshwa-
ter ecosystem services and mitigate climate change effects.
Of the three major Idaho land stewards (BLM, US
Forest Service [USFS], and private), privately owned
lands are arguably the most affected by water use and
TABLE 7 Cross-validation of mapped k-means socio-ecological zone (SEZ) composites and multinomial predicted types for different
multinomial models.
Model Agreement (%) b
KUser (%) Producer (%)
SEZ =bio-geo-phys +social +spatial 100 1.0 100 100
SEZ =bio-geo-phys +social 100 1.0 100 100
SEZ =bio-geo-phys +spatial 87.8 86.5 85.0 88.5
SEZ =social +spatial 83.9 82.2 87.7 89.5
SEZ =bio-geo-phys 79.2 76.8 57.4 78.7
SEZ =social 64.8 60.9 72.4 75.2
SEZ =spatial 59.4 54.5 38.8 58.7
Krefers to the kappa classification statistic. User and producer accuracy refer to mean user and producer percent accuracy.
14 of 21 AHO ET AL.
access regulations, and/or the Endangered Species Act of
1973, which allows some federal oversight of water on
private lands to protect imperiled species (Ruhl, 1998).
Our SEZs consisting of shrub steppe and river plain
bio-geo-physical composites with exurban-rural and agri-
culture social systems were similar for Wards linkage
and k-means analysis (Figure 7) and would likely prompt
similar water management perspectives.
BLM lands are mostly composed of dryland agricul-
ture and various public lands types, mixed with either
shrub steppe or river plains in our SEZ. BLM lands are
broken into several management districts across the
state with generalized goals of maintaining multiuse
landscapes including managing mines and resource
exploration, public recreation access and opportunities,
trail systems, grazing, and wildfire control activities
( As a practical matter,
BLM public lands are generally more available for
resource consumption/extraction via private entities,
under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 and other policies,
than those managed by other federal agencies. In our
application, the use of one SEZ framework over the other
would be unlikely to drive different management
approaches on BLM land, although a potential concern
highlighted by both SEZ maps is the intersection of
farming and ranching lands with federal motorized
off-road vehicle trail use (Figure 7), because conflict
between these user groups is likely.
The USFS is the largest land steward in Idaho, with
lands comprising approximately 40% of the state, and
SEZs that are primarily rural and/or federal forest with
mountains and forest (Appendix S3). USFS lands are
administered by state management districts with general
goals of maintaining healthy forest habitats, sustainable
harvest of forest products, and providing public access
and recreation opportunities (United States Forest
Service Policies and Projects, 2021). Although constitut-
ing <1 of Idaho GDP (United States Bureau of Economic
Analysis, 2021), revenues generated from USFS forest
product sales in Idaho remain an important management
concern, because 25% of this money is designated for
school programs and road maintenance in associated
counties. Within USFS lands, clustering methodology
strongly influenced SEZs, particularly in the northern
part of the state, with potential management implications
(Figure 7; Appendix S3).
By defining the overlap of bio-geo-physical and social
system boundaries, SEZs recognize the connections and
feedbacks linking human and natural systems (Castro
et al., 2014). The usefulness of these designations can
only be improved through a rigorous consideration of
relevant analytical issues. In addition to SEZ discrepan-
cies resulting from different statistical classifiers,
described above, several other analytical issues have been
largely ignored in the literature. For example, the efficacy
of our SEZs framework was demonstrated using
cross-validation of multinomial predicted values and
mapped SEZs. Our cross-validation approach can be criti-
cized on the grounds that a separate training dataset was
not used to generate SEZs. However, we justify our
approach on the grounds that the best possible SEZ maps
(using all possible data) were desired for the purpose of
practical application. We found that bio-geo-physical
information was more important than social system
information in defining SEZs, after controlling for spatial
autocorrelation. This finding is not surprising in a state
with large regions of intact natural ecosystems, which
result in the provision of particular ecosystem services,
which will, in-turn, drive particular socioeconomic
constraints (e.g., predominance of jobs in extractive
industries, prevalence of federal jobs, importance of eco-
tourism, wage distributions, etc.), and resultant SEZs.
This trend is likely to be moderated or reversed in more
urbanized states, given the same quality and quantity of
bio-geo-physical and social data.
Historical context, ecosystem services, and
land management in Idaho
Land management will determine the ecological fate of
Idaho lands and the character of their corresponding eco-
system services. As relevant historic examples, national
concern over the negative effects of timber harvests on
water supplies and soil erosion prompted the establish-
ment of the US Forest Reserve Act of 1891, and federal
forest oversight by the USFS (Gorte & Cody, 1995), and
deterioration of croplands prompted the enactment of the
Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, and the subsequent creation
of the BLM in 1946 to manage public rangelands
(Dana & Fairfax, 1980). Other environmental regulatory
policies, important to Idaho, include federal edicts like
the Clean Water Act of 1972, which protects the quality
of drinking water and has resulted in several Idaho state
policies including the Agricultural Pollution Abatement
Planthe Clean Air Act of 1970, and the Endangered
Species Act of 1973, and state statutes for agencies like
the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality
(Table 8).
Western states were established during coincident
shifts in US land use policy, from private dispensation to
homesteaders, to federal retentionresulting in large
reserves of federal public lands in most western states
(Jones et al., 2019; West, 1992). Legislative bodies in west-
ern states including Idaho (62% federal land), Utah (63%
federal land), and Nevada (85% federal land) have all
ECOSPHERE 15 of 21
recently considered or enacted measures to transfer fed-
eral land management and protection to state and private
control (Congressional Research Service, 2020). These
efforts are exemplified in the so-called sagebrush rebel-
lionof the 1970s and 1980s and the Utah Transfer of
Public Lands Act of 2012a state law that has failed to
result in federal proceedings. While of dubious legal and
economic merit (Keiter & Ruple, 2015), these endeavors
demonstrate the ongoing tensions between economic
interests and ecosystem conservation efforts in Idaho,
which are further fueled by dramatic population growth.
Given this context, SEZ mapping in Idaho is particularly
important because it allows the recognition and tracking
of socio-ecological dynamics in Idaho, facilitating their
effective management.
Idaho indigenous tribes
We considered Idaho indigenous social systems data by
including indigenous reservations as a land management
type, and indigenous population numbers in social
system classifications. These efforts, however, clearly
remain inadequate for conveying the historical impor-
tance of traditional indigenous social systems to Idaho
socialecological zones over thousands of years, and the
radical shifts in anthropogenic impacts and ecosystem
service perspectives as those social systems have been
Cessations of indigenous territories in the western
United States have involved the official transfer of hun-
dreds of square miles of land from indigenous to federal
and private ownership, often in violation of prior treaties
(e.g., the treaty of Fort Laramie 1868; National Archives
and Records Administration, 2016). For regions now
encompassing the state of Idaho, cessations of tribal
lands are detailed in no fewer than 18 Acts of Congress
enacted in the late 19th century (United States Library of
Congress, 2022).
Idaho native tribes include the Kootenai, Kalispel,
Coeur dAlene, Palouse, Nimiipuu (Nez Perce),
Northern Paiute in northern and central Idaho, and
the Shoshoni/Bannock, including the Warraeekas,
Tukuerukas (sheepeaters), Agaidikas (salmon eaters),
and Pohugue (people of the sage), which occupied
large expanses of southern Idaho on the Snake River
plain. Boundaries for Idaho tribal occupation were not
incorporated into base layers for analysis as these
delineations are overlapping, approximate, and histori-
cally fluid, and often fall along natural boundaries
TABLE 8 Environmental policies and agencies important to the management of Idaho lands.
Policy name Year enacted Managing agency Asset
Clean Water Act 1972 EPA Wetlands and streams
Safe Drinking Water Act 1974 EPA Drinking water resources
Clean Air Act 1970 EPA Atmosphere
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act 1976 EPA Regions affected by human waste disposal
Comprehensive Environmental Response,
Compensation, and Liability Act
1980 EPA Cleanup of chemically contaminated sites
Endangered Species Act 1973 USFWS Imperiled species/habitats
National Forest Management Act 1976 USFS Federal forest resources
Federal Land Policy and Management Act 1976 BLM Primarily federal rangeland resources
Reclamation Act 1902 BOR Water resources for irrigation
Idaho Irrigation and Drainage, Code 42 1895 IDWS Watersheds (water rights)
Idaho State Policy on Environmental
Protection, Code 39-1
1972 IDEQ Atmosphere/Watersheds
Idaho Department of Lands, Code 58-5
through 58-14
1937 Idaho state lands
Idaho Fish and Game, Code 36-101 through
1976 IDFG Wildlife (primarily game species)
Abbreviations: BOR, Bureau of Reclamation; EPA, US Environmental Protection Agency; IDEQ, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality; IDFG, Idaho
Department of Fish and Game; IDWS, Idaho Department of Water Resources; USFS, US Forest Service; USFWS, US Fish and Wildlife Service.
16 of 21 AHO ET AL.
coincident with bio-geo-physical data (Digital Atlas of
Idaho, 2022; Ray et al., 1938). Nonetheless, we empha-
size the importance of future consideration of these
historic patterns in the context of socio-ecological
research in Idaho.
The character of natural ecosystems fundamentally
and uniquely underly the traditional cultural and
spiritual perspectives of Idaho indigenous tribes. For
instance, Burger (2012) found that Bannock-Shoshoni
tribal members were more likely to value complex eco-
system characteristics (e.g., food chains) and emergent
processes (e.g., species diversity) than local Caucasians
in Idaho. Tribal perspectives, however, have become
increasingly incorporated into management decisions
concerning resources on western public lands, and may
be further influenced and informed by reliable SEZs
for these regions. For instance, several recent court rul-
ings have supported tribal efforts to restore indigenous
socialecological systems by requiring that state gov-
ernments co-manage Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus
sp.) populations with tribalrepresentatives,andthe
federal Northwest Forest Plan has specifically consid-
ered effective consultation with tribes and protections
afforded by tribal treaty rights (Long & Lake, 2018).
The US Department of the Interior (which includes the
BLM) is the primary federal agency charged with
maintaining relationships with federally recognized
tribes, and promoting tribal self-determination
(DOI, 2022). Detailed SEZ designations would be par-
ticularly useful for ongoing BLM-tribal consultations
in western states regarding coal leases and other
resource decisions (BLM, 2022).
Our methodological approach for delineating and map-
ping SEZs addresses both the strong need for description
of current SES spatial patterns in one of the most rapidly
growing regions in the United States, and the general need
for analytical refinement in SES mapping. With regard to
analytical considerations, we: (1) demonstrate the poten-
tial distinctiveness of SEZ types resulting from different
clustering algorithms, (2) provide cross-validation mea-
sures of SEZ efficacy, (3) quantify the individual contribu-
tions of bio-geo-physical and social system predictors in
defining SEZs, and (4) explicitly account for spatial auto-
correlation effects on SEZs. Our analytical approaches are
broadly applicable to ecological settings in which a multi-
nomial response variable (e.g., cluster types) has a spatial
component. Our SEZ composites identify hotspots for
management consideration in Idaho, including pivotal
regions with high water management concerns and
Exurban to Ruralproximal to relatively undisturbed
bio-geo-physical types that are optimal for development.
In general, SEZs can be developed to guide particular eco-
logical concerns, including threatened species, and cul-
tural and societal concerns including those of historically
marginalized groups.
This publication was made possible by the National
Science Foundation (NSF) Idaho Established Program to
Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) under NSF
award number IIA-1301792. Support for this research
was also provided by the NSF via RC CZO Cooperative
agreement NSF EAR-1331872. We acknowledge that
Idaho State University (in Pocatello Idaho) is located
within the boundaries of the original Fort Hall
Reservation on the traditional lands of the Shoshone and
Bannock peoples. The state of Idaho is located on the tra-
ditional lands of the Kootenai, Kalispel, Coeur dAlene,
Palouse, Nimiipuu (Nez Perce), Northern Paiute, and
Shoshoni/Bannock tribes.
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Datasets used for this research are publicly available and
are as follows:
1. National Elevational Dataset (NED, 2018): https:// (see Table 1for variables
2. Panchromatic Remote-sensing Instrument for Stereo
Mapping Data (PRISM, 2015): https://prism.jpl.nasa.
gov/prism_data.html (see Table 1for variables used).
3. Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer
Data (MODIS, 2022):
data/ (see Table 1for variables used).
4. National Land Cover Database (NLCD, 2022):
land-cover-database (see Table 1for variables used).
5. Mineral Resources Online Spatial Data (MRData, 2022): (see Table
1for variables used).
6. Soil Survey Geographic Database (SSURGO, 2022): (see Table 1for
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gov/ (see Table 1for variables used).
8. (Jenkins, 2022; Jenkins
et al., 2013): (see
Table 2for variables used).
ECOSPHERE 17 of 21
9. American Community Survey (ACS, 2022): https:// (see Table 2
for variables used).
10. Idaho Surface Management Agency Data (ISMA,
(see Table 2for variables used).
11. Idaho Traffic Density Data (ITD, 2022): https://itd. (see Table 2for variables used).
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et al., 2019) (see Table 2).
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