Predicting future ecological degradation based on modelled thresholds

Fairweather, Peter G. and Lester, Rebecca E. 2010, Predicting future ecological degradation based on modelled thresholds, Marine ecology progress series, vol. 413, pp. 291-304, doi: 10.3354/meps08633.

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Title Predicting future ecological degradation based on modelled thresholds
Author(s) Fairweather, Peter G.
Lester, Rebecca E.ORCID iD for Lester, Rebecca E.
Journal name Marine ecology progress series
Volume number 413
Start page 291
End page 304
Total pages 14
Publisher Inter-Research
Place of publication Oldendorf, Germany
Publication date 2010
ISSN 0171-8630
Keyword(s) Coorong
water allocation
statistical modelling
South Australia
physico-chemical transitions
environmental futures
empirical anticipation
ecosystem states
Summary Threshold models are becoming important in determining the ecological consequences of our actions within the environment and have a key role in setting bounds on targets used by natural resource managers. We have been using thresholds and related concepts adapted from the multiple stable-states literature to model ecosystem response in the Coorong, the estuary for Australia’s largest river. Our modelling approach is based upon developing a state-and-transition model, with the states defined by the biota and the transitions defined by a classification and regression tree (CART) analysis of the environmental data for the region. Here we explore the behaviour of thresholds within that model. Managers tend to plan for a set of often arbitrarily-derived thresholds in their natural resource management. We attempt to assess how the precision afforded by analyses such as CART translates into ecological outcomes, and explicitly trial several approaches to understanding thresholds and transitions in our model and how they might be relevant for management. We conclude that the most promising approach would be a mixture of further modelling (using past behaviour to predict future degradation) in conjunction with targeted experiments to confirm the results. Our case study of the Coorong is further developed, particularly for the modelling stages of the protocol, to provide recommendations to improve natural resource management strategies that are currently in use.
Language eng
DOI 10.3354/meps08633
Field of Research 059999 Environmental Sciences not elsewhere classified
Socio Economic Objective 970105 Expanding Knowledge in the Environmental Sciences
HERDC Research category C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©Inter-Research 2010
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