Clarity or confusion?: problems in attributing large-scale ecological changes to anthropogenic drivers

Smart, S.M. ORCID:; Henrys, P.A.; Purse, B.V. ORCID:; Murphy, J.M.; Bailey, M.J.; Marrs, R.H.. 2012 Clarity or confusion?: problems in attributing large-scale ecological changes to anthropogenic drivers. Ecological Indicators, 20. 51-56.

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Ways of reducing the drivers of global biodiversity loss and degradation of ecosystem services are needed more than ever before. Policy options must be based on the best evidence of the role of multiple driving forces. Increasingly, a significant part of the evidence base comes from attributing signals of biological change detected in large-scale analytical surveys to a range of possible causal factors. We highlight a number of subtle difficulties that can beset the challenge of detecting such correlative relationships. These are as follows: (1) The Modifiable Area Unit Problem. (2) Incomplete explanatory variable data. (3) Lack of control over the replication and crossing of driving variables. In most cases these problems can be avoided by more careful specification of the scientific question and application of relatively new analytical techniques. Ignoring them can lead to mis-specification of hypothesised driver–state–impact relationships and flawed conclusions as to the most important causes of change.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity > BD Topic 1 - Observations, Patterns, and Predictions for Biodiversity
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Directors, SCs
ISSN: 1470-160X
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: This document is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Ecological Indicators. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Ecological Indicators, 20. 51-56. 10.1016/j.ecolind.2012.01.022
Additional Keywords: analytical surveys, monitoring, global change, anthropogenic, biodiversity, ecosystem services, scale
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 17 Apr 2012 12:48 +0 (UTC)

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