Enabling regional management in a changing climate through Bayesian meta-analysis of a large-scale disturbance

MacNeil, M. Aaron, and Graham, Nicholas A.J. (2010) Enabling regional management in a changing climate through Bayesian meta-analysis of a large-scale disturbance. Global Ecology and Biogeography , 19 (3). pp. 412-421.

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Aim:  Quantifying and predicting change in large ecosystems is an important research objective for applied ecologists as human disturbance effects become increasingly evident at regional and global scales. However, studies used to make inferences about large-scale change are frequently of uneven quality and few in number, having been undertaken to study local, rather than global, change. Our aim is to improve the quality of inferences that can be made in meta-analyses of large-scale disturbance by integrating studies of varying quality in a unified modelling framework that is informative for both local and regional management.

Innovation:  Here we improve conventionally structured meta-analysis methods by including imputation of unknown study variances and the use of Bayesian factor potentials. The approach is a coherent framework for integrating data of varying quality across multiple studies while facilitating belief statements about the uncertainty in parameter estimates and the probable outcome of future events. The approach is applied to a regional meta-analysis of the effects of loss of coral cover on species richness and the abundance of coral-dependent fishes in the western Indian Ocean (WIO) before and after a mass bleaching event in 1998.

Main conclusions:  Our Bayesian approach to meta-analysis provided greater precision of parameter estimates than conventional weighted linear regression meta-analytical techniques, allowing us to integrate all available data from 66 available study locations in the WIO across multiple scales. The approach thereby: (1) estimated uncertainty in site-level estimates of change, (2) provided a regional estimate for future change at any given site in the WIO, and (3) provided a probabilistic belief framework for future management of reef resources at both local and regional scales.

Item ID: 11831
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1466-8238
Keywords: climate change; coral bleaching; coral reef ecology; hierarchical models; Indian Ocean; multi-scale; observational analysis; PyMC; reef fish
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2010 04:27
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050205 Environmental Management @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960506 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Fresh, Ground and Surface Water Environments @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960302 Climate Change Mitigation Strategies @ 50%
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