Modelling beyond data is uninformative: A comment on "State-space modelling reveals proximate causes of harbour seal population declines" by Matthiopoulos et al

Mike Lonergan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Detailed models have the potential to reveal important processes underlying patterns in data. However, model fitting depends on the availability of sufficient data, and the results obtained from the models depend on detailed assumptions. In a recent paper, Matthiopoulos et al. fitted Bayesian state space models to a limited dataset and attempted to explain the recent trajectory of the harbour seal population in the Moray Firth, in northern Scotland. They went on to suggest that the results could help explain recent declines in other nearby populations. This Comment describes the implications of understating the uncertainty that the model required for convergence, questions the robustness of the results, highlights the differences between the areas, and cautions against extrapolating across these populations. The distinction between models that can be fitted to a dataset and those that provide useful information about the systems that generated the data is also considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1063-1067
Number of pages5
JournalOecologia
Volume175
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014

Keywords

  • Aerial surveys
  • Conservation
  • Demography
  • Monitoring
  • Phoca vitulina

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