A Bayesian hierarchical framework for calibrating aquatic biogeochemical models

Weitao Zhang, George B. Arhonditsis
2009 Ecological Modelling  
Model practitioners increasingly place emphasis on rigorous quantitative error analysis in aquatic biogeochemical models and the existing initiatives range from the development of alternative metrics for goodness of fit, to data assimilation into operational models, to parameter estimation techniques. However, the treatment of error in many of these efforts is arguably selective and/or ad hoc. A Bayesian hierarchical framework enables the development of robust probabilistic analysis of error
more » ... uncertainty in model predictions by explicitly accommodating measurement error, parameter uncertainty, and model structure imperfection. This paper presents a Bayesian hierarchical formulation for simultaneously calibrating aquatic biogeochemical models at multiple systems (or sites of the same system) with differences in their trophic conditions, prior precisions of model parameters, available information, measurement error or inter-annual variability. Our statistical formulation also explicitly considers the uncertainty in model inputs (model parameters, initial conditions), the analytical/sampling error associated with the field data, and the discrepancy between model structure and the natural system dynamics (e.g., missing key ecological processes, erroneous formulations, misspecified forcing functions). The comparison between observations and posterior predictive monthly distributions indicates that the plankton models calibrated under the Bayesian hierarchical scheme provided accurate system representations for all the scenarios examined. Our results also suggest that the Bayesian hierarchical approach allows overcoming problems of insufficient local data by "borrowing strength" from well-studied sites and this feature will be highly relevant to conservation practices of regions with a high number of freshwater resources for which complete data could never be practically collected. Finally, we discuss the prospect of extending this framework to spatially explicit biogeochemical models (e.g., more effectively connect inshore with offshore areas) along with the benefits for environmental management, such as the optimization of the sampling design of monitoring programs and the alignment with the policy practice of adaptive management.
doi:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2009.05.023 fatcat:jtsg6qphcjg7jptbpnsfwyk3yy