# Variable selection with the VIF

```
using SimpleSDMLayers
using GLM
using Statistics
```

**Justification for this use case:** a lot of predictive variables are auto-correlated, and therefore one might argue that maybe, we may eventually build better models by removing some of them. This is generally refered to as variable selection, and sharing one's opinion on this is the fastest way to start a brawl at any gathering of ecologists.

We will illustrate variable selection with the Variance Inflation Factor using the bioclim data from the region in which *Hypomyces lactifluorum* is found.

```
layers = SimpleSDMPredictor(
WorldClim, BioClim, 1:19; left=-169.0, right=-50.0, bottom=24.0, top=71.0
);
```

We will first gather everything in a matrix:

```
x = hcat([layer[keys(layer)] for layer in layers]...);
size(x)
```

`(100548, 19)`

Because of the spread of some values, we will center and reduce this matrix to give every variable a mean of 0 and unit variance:

```
X = (x .- mean(x; dims=1)) ./ std(x; dims=1)
round.(Int, mean(X; dims=1))
```

```
1×19 Matrix{Int64}:
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
```

The VIF is simply measured as 1/(1-R²) by regressing every variable against all others. Let's have an illustration with the first predictor:

```
function vif(model)
R² = r2(model)
return 1 / (1 - R²)
end
vif(lm(X[:, 2:end], X[:, 1]))
```

`730.2379f0`

The generally agreed threshold for a good VIF is 2, or 5, or 10 (so both "generally" and "agreed" are overstatements here), and as this one is higher, it suggests that we may not need all of these data. It is also entirely possible to have an *infinite* VIF, in case two variables are perfectly correlated (this happens a fair amount with bioclim, in fact).

For this reason, we will go through an iterative process to get rid of variables one by one until the largest VIF is no larger than some threshold. Specifically, we get rid of the variable with the largest VIF first. Let's try this with the full sample:

```
vifs = zeros(Float64, length(layers))
for i in eachindex(layers)
vifs[i] = vif(lm(X[:, setdiff(eachindex(selection), i)], X[:, i]))
end
findmax(vifs)
```

This result suggests that this variable, because it has the highest VIF (and one that is above our threshold), should be dropped. Repeating the process is a good use case for a recursive function:

```
function stepwisevif(
layers::Vector{T}, selection=collect(1:length(layers)), threshold::Float64=5.0
) where {T<:SimpleSDMLayer}
x = hcat([layer[keys(layer)] for layer in layers[selection]]...)
X = (x .- mean(x; dims=1)) ./ std(x; dims=1)
vifs = zeros(Float64, length(selection))
for i in eachindex(selection)
vifs[i] = vif(lm(X[:, setdiff(eachindex(selection), i)], X[:, i]))
end
all(vifs .<= threshold) && return selection
drop = last(findmax(vifs))
popat!(selection, drop)
@info "Variables remaining: $(selection)"
return stepwisevif(layers, selection, threshold)
end
```

`stepwisevif (generic function with 3 methods)`

This function will operate on a collection of layers, and starting from a selection (of indices), iterate until a subset satisfying max(VIF) < threshold is found. We can run this function on our entire dataset:

`selected_variables_id = stepwisevif(layers)`

```
6-element Vector{Int64}:
2
7
8
15
18
19
```

Which variables are these?

`layernames(WorldClim, BioClim)[selected_variables_id]`

`("Mean Diurnal Range", "Temperature Annual Range", "Mean Temperature of Wettest Quarter", "Precipitation Seasonality", "Precipitation of Warmest Quarter", "Precipitation of Coldest Quarter")`

Finally, we can select the variables this process recommends:

`layers[selected_variables_id]`

```
6-element Vector{SimpleSDMPredictor{Float32}}:
SDM predictor → 282×714 grid with 100548 Float32-valued cells
SDM predictor → 282×714 grid with 100548 Float32-valued cells
SDM predictor → 282×714 grid with 100548 Float32-valued cells
SDM predictor → 282×714 grid with 100548 Float32-valued cells
SDM predictor → 282×714 grid with 100548 Float32-valued cells
SDM predictor → 282×714 grid with 100548 Float32-valued cells
```

Before we move on – variable selection, especially stepwise, is not necessarilly a *good* practice. Alternatives are model selection, dimensionality reduction using *e.g.* PCA, or other methods to remove the problematic covariance structure in the data. In Julia, a lot of this can be done using the `MultivariateStats`

package. This can be an interesting exercise: rather than relying on VIF, what would the dimensionsality of the results look like with a PCA cutoff at 99% of explained variance?