Exploring the utility of Bayesian Networks for modelling cultural ecosystem services: A canoeing case study

Shaw, E. and Kumar, V. and Lange, E. and Lerner, D.N.
2016
Modelling cultural ecosystem services is challenging as they often involve subjective and intangible concepts. As a consequence they have been neglected in ecosystem service studies, something that needs remedying if environmental decision making is to be truly holistic. We suggest Bayesian Networks (BNs) have a number of qualities that may make them well-suited for dealing with cultural services. For example, they define relationships between variables probabilistically, enabling conceptual and physical variables to be linked, and therefore the numerical representation of stakeholder opinions. We assess whether BNs are a good method for modelling cultural services by building one collaboratively with canoeists to predict how the subjective concepts of fun and danger are impacted on by weir modification. The BN successfully captured the relationships between the variables, with model output being broadly consistent with verbal descriptions by the canoeists. There were however a number of discrepancies indicating imperfect knowledge capture. This is likely due to the structure of the network and the abstract and laborious nature of the probability elicitation stage. New techniques should be developed to increase the intuitiveness and efficiency of probability elicitation. The limitations we identified with BNs are avoided if their structure can be kept simple, and it is in such circumstances that BNs can offer a good method for modelling cultural ecosystem services.
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