How Certain Are Salmon Recovery Forecasts? A Watershed-scale Sensitivity Analysis
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Complex relationships between landscape and aquatic habitat conditions and salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) populations make science-based management decisions both difficult and essential. Due to a paucity of empirical data, models characterizing these relationships are often used to forecast future conditions. We evaluated uncertainties in a suite of models that predict possible future habitat conditions and fish responses in the Lewis River Basin, Washington, USA. We evaluated sensitivities of predictions to uncertainty in model parameters. Results were sensitive to 60% of model parameters but substantially so (|partial regression coefficients| >0.5) to <10%. We also estimated accuracy of several predictions using field surveys. Observations mostly fell within predicted ranges for riparian shade and fine-sediment deposition, but large woody debris estimates matched only half the time. We provide suggestions to modelers for improving model accountability, and describe how managers can incorporate prediction uncertainty into decision-making, thereby improving the odds of successful salmon habitat recovery.
KeywordsUncertainty Decision Watershed restoration Conservation Land management
We thank A. Booy, B. Burke, J. Burke, K. Campbell, Y. Caras, J. Scheurer, and M. Sheer for field assistance with stream surveys. We thank B. Burke, C. Harvey, and A. Mullan for comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. Funding was provided by NOAA Fisheries Service, and by an internal grant from the Northwest Fisheries Science Center to AHF.
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