Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Research Publications: UM-SG-RS-2010-20


Ecosystem network analysis indicators are generally robust to parameter uncertainty in a phosphorus model of Lake Sidney Lanier, USA.




Kaufman, AG; Borrett, SR


Ecological Modelling 221(8):1230-1238




Understanding how data uncertainty influences ecosystem analysis is critical as we move toward ecosystem-based management. Here, we investigate how 18 Ecological Network Analysis (ENA) indicators that characterize ecosystem growth, development, and condition are affected by uncertainty in an ecosystem model of Lake Sidney Lanier (USA). We applied ENA to 122 plausible parameterizations of the ecosystem developed by Borrett and Osidele (2007, Ecological Modelling 200, 371-387), and then used the coefficient of variation (CV) to compare system indicator variability. We considered Total System Throughput (TST) as a measure of the underlying model uncertainty and tested three hypotheses. First, we hypothesized that non-ratio indicators whose calculation includes the TST would be at least as variable as TST if not more variable. Second, we postulated that indicators calculated as ratios, with TST in the numerator and denominator would tend to be less variable than TST because its influence will cancel. Last, we expected the Average Mutual Information (AMI) to be less variable than TST because it is a bounded function. Our work shows that the 18 indicators grouped into four categories. The first group has significantly larger CVs than the CV for TST. In this group, model uncertainty is amplified rendering these three indicators less useful. The second group of four indicators shows no significant difference in variability with respect to TST. Finally, there are two groups whose CV values are significantly lower than that for TST. The least variable group includes the ratio-based indicators and Average Mutual Information. Due to their low variability, we conclude that these indicators are the most robust to the parameter uncertainty and most useful for ecosystem assessment and comparative ecosystem analysis. In summary, this work suggests that we can be as certain, or more certain, in most of the selected ENA indicators as we are in the parameters of the model analyzed.

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