Pacific Salmon Environmental and Life History Models: Advancing Science for Sustainable Salmon in the Future

Mind the Gap: Uncertainty and Model Communication Between Managers and Scientists

E. Ashley Steel, Timothy J. Beechie, Mary H. Ruckelshaus, Aimee H. Fullerton, Paul McElhany, and Phil Roni

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874097.ch18

Abstract.—Natural resource management requires difficult decisions, broad societal costs, and sacrifices from private landowners and public agencies. With so many financial, ecological and cultural resources at stake, policy-makers, managers, and citizens need scientific predictions that can help resolve conflicts and balance the often competing needs of ecosystems and communities. Modeled information is essential for meeting this need. The words “model uncertainty” are often misinterpreted as describing a lack of knowledge about model output. In fact, they describe knowledge, not only of the one most likely modeled estimate, but also of all the other possible estimates that the model might have provided, and their likelihood. We present six case studies, from salmon habitat recovery planning, illustrating how scientists can provide more useful products by describing distributions of possible outcomes as formal probability distributions, as confidence intervals, or as descriptions of alternative scenarios. In terms of management effectiveness, the communication and use of model uncertainty can be at least as important as the quality of the original model.