Proposed best modeling practices for assessing the effects of ecosystem restoration on fish
Large-scale aquatic ecosystem restoration is increasing and is often controversial because of the economic costs involved, with the focus of the controversies gravitating to the modeling of fish responses. We present a scheme for best practices in selecting, implementing, interpreting, and reporting of fish modeling designed to assess the effects of restoration actions on fish populations and aquatic food webs. Previous best practice schemes that tended to be more general are summarized, and they form the foundation for our scheme that is specifically tailored for fish and restoration. We then present a 31-step scheme, with supporting text and narrative for each step, which goes from understanding how the results will be used through post-auditing to ensure the approach is used effectively in subsequent applications. We also describe 13 concepts that need to be considered in parallel to these best practice steps. Examples of these concepts include: life cycles and strategies; variability and uncertainty; nonequilibrium theory; biological, temporal, and spatial scaling; explicit versus implicit representation of processes; and model validation. These concepts are often not considered or not explicitly stated and casual treatment of them leads to mis-communication and mis-understandings, which in turn, often underlie the resulting controversies. We illustrate a subset of these steps, and their associated concepts, using the three case studies of Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, the wetlands of coastal Louisiana, and the Everglades. Use of our proposed scheme will require investment of additional time and effort (and dollars) to be done effectively. We argue that such an investment is well worth it and will more than pay back in the long run in effective and efficient restoration actions and likely avoided controversies and legal proceedings.