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Effect of complexity on marine ecosystem models


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Fulton, EA, Smith, ADM and Johnson, CR 2003 , 'Effect of complexity on marine ecosystem models' , Marine Ecology Progress Series, vol. 253 , pp. 1-16 .

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Ecosystem rather than species management has become an explicit part of policies that
feature in international treaties and national legislation. Many of the tools that will be needed to fulfil
the requirements of these policies are still in an early stage of development. One such tool is trophic
ecosystem modelling. These models have been put forward to aid system-level understanding and
provide insight into the potential impacts of human activities. Despite this, there are many gaps in
knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses. In particular, little is known about the effect of the
level of detail in a model on its performance. There has been some consideration of the effects of
model formulation, as well as the effects of the physical, biological and chemical scope of multispecies
and ecosystem models on their performance. A review of existing research indicates that
there is a humped relationship between model detail and performance for these models, and that
there are some guiding principles to consider during model development. This review gives some
insight into which model structures and assumptions are likely to aid understanding and management,
and which may be unnecessary. Further, it provides some understanding of whether some
models can capture properties of real systems that other models cannot. The main recommendation
is that the use of a single 'ultimate' ecosystem model is ill-advised, while the comparative and confirmatory
use of multiple 'minimum-realistic' models is strongly recommended.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Fulton, EA and Smith, ADM and Johnson, CR
Keywords: Ecosystem, Multispecies, Model, Complexity, Model structure, Model scope
Journal or Publication Title: Marine Ecology Progress Series
ISSN: 0171-8630
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