Spatial Simulation Modeling of Settlement Distribution Driven by Random Forest: Consideration of Landscape Visibility
Settlement models help to understand the social–ecological functioning of landscape and associated land use and land cover change. One of the issues of settlement modeling is that models are typically used to explore the relationship between settlement locations and associated influential factors (e.g., slope and aspect). However, few studies in settlement modeling adopted landscape visibility analysis. Landscape visibility provides useful information for understanding human decision-making
... decision-making associated with the establishment of settlements. In the past years, machine learning algorithms have demonstrated their capabilities in improving the performance of the settlement modeling and particularly capturing the nonlinear relationship between settlement locations and their drivers. However, simulation models using machine learning algorithms in settlement modeling are still not well studied. Moreover, overfitting issues and optimization of model parameters are major challenges for most machine learning algorithms. Therefore, in this study, we sought to pursue two research objectives. First, we aimed to evaluate the contribution of viewsheds and landscape visibility to the simulation modeling of - settlement locations. The second objective is to examine the performance of the machine learning algorithm-based simulation models for settlement location studies. Our study region is located in the metropolitan area of Oyo Empire, Nigeria, West Africa, ca. AD 1570–1830, and its pre-Imperial antecedents, ca. AD 1360–1570. We developed an event-driven spatial simulation model enabled by random forest algorithm to represent dynamics in settlement systems in our study region. Experimental results demonstrate that viewsheds and landscape visibility may offer more insights into unveiling the underlying mechanism that drives settlement locations. Random forest algorithm, as a machine learning algorithm, provide solid support for establishing the relationship between settlement occurrences and their drivers.