Technical Report

Defining Levels of Effort for Ecological Models

Date: 2023/09/01

Author(s): Harris A.E., Richards N.S., McKay S.K.

Publication: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering Research and Development Center, ERDC/TN EMRRP-EM-11


DOI: 10.21079/11681/47642


While models are useful tools for decision-making in environmental management, the question arises about the level of effort required to develop an effective model for a given application. In some cases, it is unclear whether more analysis would lead to choosing a better course of action. This technical note (TN) examines the role of ecological model complexity in ecosystem management. First, model complexity is examined through the lens of risk informed planning. Second, a framework is presented for categorizing five different levels of effort that range from conceptual models to detailed predictive tools. This framework is proposed to enhance communication and provide consistency in ecological modeling applications. Third, the level of effort framework is applied to a set of models in the Middle Rio Grande River system to demonstrate the framework’s utility and application. Ultimately, this TN seeks to guide planners in determining an appropriate level of effort relative to risks associated with uncertainty and resource availability for a given application.