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Biological, Economic, and Management Implications of Weighted Least Squares

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An assumption of ordinary least squares (OLS) is constant variance across the domain of a regressor. Often, however, the random error term variance is not constant when modeling biological data and therefore weighted least squares (WLS) is commonly used to estimate parameters. Less emphasis is placed on observations of the dependent variable with larger variances when using WLS, which is thought to produce more “efficient” parameter estimates. Statisticians often use WLS instead of OLS when the random error variance is not constant. However, as natural resource managers, we are often most interested in values of the dependent variable where the variance is greatest. What then are the biological, economic, and management implications of using WLS versus OLS in natural resource modeling? In this article, parameters of the combined-variable volume equation were estimated for individual trees in loblolly pine plantations using both OLS and WLS. A growth-and-yield model was used to predict stand development over time of two planting densities (303 and 1,090 seedlings/ac) and individual tree volumes were predicted using OLS and WLS parameter estimates. Economic analyses were then conducted. Our results show that the choice of OLS or WLS can have a substantial impact on predicted economic returns. Thus, when using WLS, landowners may decide to invest in additional management treatments that may, in fact, not be economically feasible. This study provides further evidence that landowners need to be aware of model structures when basing harvest-age decisions on growth and yield projections.
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Keywords: Pinus taeda L; combined-variable volume equation; loblolly pine; ordinary least squares; plantations

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-05-01

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