Nonparametric spatial covariance functions: estimation and testing

O.N. Bjørnstad and W. Falck: Nonparametric spatial covariance functions: estimation and testing

Environmental and Ecological Statistics (2000) 8:53-70.


Spatial autocorrelation techniques are commonly used to describe genetic and ecological patterns. To improve statistical inference about spatial covariance, we propose a continuous nonparametric estimator of the covariance function in place of the spatial correlogram. The spline correlogram is an adaptation of a recent development in spatial statistics and is a generalization of the commonly used correlogram. We propose a bootstrap algorithm to erect a confidence envelope around the entire covariance function. The meaning of this envelope is discussed; Not all functions that can be drawn inside the envelope are candidate covariance functions, as they may not be positive semidefinite. However, covariance functions that do not fit, are not supported by the data. A direct estimate of the L0 spatial correlation length with associated confidence interval is offered and its interpretation is discussed. The spline correlogram is found to have high precision when applied to synthetic data. For illustration, the method is applied to electrophoretic data of an alpine grass (Poa alpina).

Keywords: Bootstrapping dependent data; Correlogram; Geostatistis; Nonparametric regression; Population genetics; Smoothing spline; Spatial autocorrelation.