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  1. This EDI data package contains instructional materials necessary to teach Macrosystems EDDIE Module 6: Understanding Uncertainty in Ecological Forecasts, a ~3-hour educational module for undergraduates. Ecological forecasting is an emerging approach that provides an estimate of the future state of an ecological system with uncertainty, allowing society to prepare for changes in important ecosystem services. Forecast uncertainty is derived from multiple sources, including model parameters and driver data, among others. Knowing the uncertainty associated with a forecast enables forecast users to evaluate the forecast and make more informed decisions. This module will guide students through an exploration of the sources of uncertainty within an ecological forecast, how uncertainty can be quantified, and steps that can be taken to reduce the uncertainty in a forecast that students develop for a lake ecosystem, using data from the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). Students will visualize data, build a model, generate a forecast with uncertainty, and then compare the contributions of various sources of forecast uncertainty to total forecast uncertainty. The flexible, three-part (A-B-C) structure of this module makes it adaptable to a range of student levels and course structures. There are two versions of the module: an R Shiny application which does not require students to code, and an RMarkdown version which requires students to read and alter R code to complete module activities. The R Shiny application is published to and is available at the following link: GitHub repositories are available for both the R Shiny ( and RMarkdown versions ( of the module, and both code repositories have been published with DOIs to Zenodo (R Shiny version at and RMarkdown version at Readers are referred to the module landing page for additional information ( 
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  2. Abstract

    This paper summarizes the open community conventions developed by the Ecological Forecasting Initiative (EFI) for the common formatting and archiving of ecological forecasts and the metadata associated with these forecasts. Such open standards are intended to promote interoperability and facilitate forecast communication, distribution, validation, and synthesis. For output files, we first describe the convention conceptually in terms of global attributes, forecast dimensions, forecasted variables, and ancillary indicator variables. We then illustrate the application of this convention to the two file formats that are currently preferred by the EFI, netCDF (network common data form), and comma‐separated values (CSV), but note that the convention is extensible to future formats. For metadata, EFI's convention identifies a subset of conventional metadata variables that are required (e.g., temporal resolution and output variables) but focuses on developing a framework for storing information about forecast uncertainty propagation, data assimilation, and model complexity, which aims to facilitate cross‐forecast synthesis. The initial application of this convention expands upon the Ecological Metadata Language (EML), a commonly used metadata standard in ecology. To facilitate community adoption, we also provide a Github repository containing a metadata validator tool and several vignettes in R and Python on how to both write and read in the EFI standard. Lastly, we provide guidance on forecast archiving, making an important distinction between short‐term dissemination and long‐term forecast archiving, while also touching on the archiving of code and workflows. Overall, the EFI convention is a living document that can continue to evolve over time through an open community process.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 23, 2024
  3. Abstract

    In ecology, it is common for processes to be bounded based on physical constraints of the system. One common example is the positivity constraint, which applies to phenomena such as duration times, population sizes, and total stock of a system’s commodity. In this paper, we propose a novel method for parameterizing Lognormal state space models using an approach based on moment matching. Our method enforces the positivity constraint, allows for arbitrary mean evolution and variance structure, and has a closed-form Markov transition density which allows for more flexibility in fitting techniques. We discuss two existing Lognormal state space models and examine how they differ from the method presented here. We use 180 synthetic datasets to compare the forecasting performance under model misspecification and assess the estimation of precision parameters between our method and existing methods. We find that our models perform well under misspecification, and that fixing the observation variance both helps to improve estimation of the process variance and improves forecast performance. To test our method on a difficult problem, we compare the predictive performance of two Lognormal state space models in predicting the Leaf Area Index over a 151 day horizon by using a process-based ecosystem model to describe the temporal dynamics. We find that our moment matching model performs better than its competitor, and is better suited for intermediate predictive horizons. Overall, our study helps to inform practitioners about the importance of incorporating sensible dynamics when using models of complex systems to predict out-of-sample.

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  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2025
  5. Because of increased variability in populations, communities, and ecosystems due to land use and climate change, there is a pressing need to know the future state of ecological systems across space and time. Ecological forecasting is an emerging approach which provides an estimate of the future state of an ecological system with uncertainty, allowing society to preemptively prepare for fluctuations in important ecosystem services. However, forecasts must be effectively designed and communicated to those who need them to make decisions in order to realize their potential for protecting natural resources. In this module, students will explore real ecological forecast visualizations, identify ways to represent uncertainty, make management decisions using forecast visualizations, and learn decision support techniques. Lastly, students customize a forecast visualization for a specific stakeholder's decision needs. The overarching goal of this module is for students to understand how forecasts are connected to decision-making of stakeholders, or the managers, policy-makers, and other members of society who use forecasts to inform decision-making. The A-B-C structure of this module makes it flexible and adaptable to a range of student levels and course structures. This EDI data package contains instructional materials and the files necessary to teach the module. Readers are referred to the Zenodo data package (Woelmer et al. 2022; DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7074674) for the R Shiny application code needed to run the module locally. 
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  6. Abstract

    Near‐term freshwater forecasts, defined as sub‐daily to decadal future predictions of a freshwater variable with quantified uncertainty, are urgently needed to improve water quality management as freshwater ecosystems exhibit greater variability due to global change. Shifting baselines in freshwater ecosystems due to land use and climate change prevent managers from relying on historical averages for predicting future conditions, necessitating near‐term forecasts to mitigate freshwater risks to human health and safety (e.g., flash floods, harmful algal blooms) and ecosystem services (e.g., water‐related recreation and tourism). To assess the current state of freshwater forecasting and identify opportunities for future progress, we synthesized freshwater forecasting papers published in the past 5 years. We found that freshwater forecasting is currently dominated by near‐term forecasts of waterquantityand that near‐term waterqualityforecasts are fewer in number and in the early stages of development (i.e., non‐operational) despite their potential as important preemptive decision support tools. We contend that more freshwater quality forecasts are critically needed and that near‐term water quality forecasting is poised to make substantial advances based on examples of recent progress in forecasting methodology, workflows, and end‐user engagement. For example, current water quality forecasting systems can predict water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and algal bloom/toxin events 5 days ahead with reasonable accuracy. Continued progress in freshwater quality forecasting will be greatly accelerated by adapting tools and approaches from freshwater quantity forecasting (e.g., machine learning modeling methods). In addition, future development of effective operational freshwater quality forecasts will require substantive engagement of end users throughout the forecast process, funding, and training opportunities. Looking ahead, near‐term forecasting provides a hopeful future for freshwater management in the face of increased variability and risk due to global change, and we encourage the freshwater scientific community to incorporate forecasting approaches in water quality research and management.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2024
  7. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  8. This data publication includes code and results from a systematic literature review on the current state of near-term forecasting of freshwater quality. The review aimed to address the following questions: (1) Freshwater variables, scales, models, and skill: Which freshwater variables and temporal scales are most commonly targeted for near-term forecasts, and what modeling methods are most commonly employed to develop these forecasts? How is the accuracy of freshwater quality forecasts assessed, and how accurate are they? How is uncertainty typically incorporated into water quality forecast output? (2) Forecast infrastructure and workflows: Are iterative, automated workflows commonly employed in near-term freshwater quality forecasting? How are forecasts validated and archived? (3) Human dimensions: What is the stated motivation for development of most near-term freshwater quality forecasts, and who are the most common end users (if any)? How are end users engaged in forecast development? An initial search was conducted for published papers presenting freshwater quality forecasts from 1 January 2017 to 17 February 2022 in the Web of Science Core Collection. Results were subsequently analyzed in three stages. First, paper titles were screened for relevance. Second, an initial screen was conducted to assess whether each paper presented a near-term freshwater quality forecast. Third, papers that passed the initial screen were analyzed using a standardized matrix to assess the state of near-term freshwater quality forecasting and identify areas of recent progress and ongoing challenges. Additional details regarding the systematic literature search and review are presented in the Methods section of the metadata. 
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  9. Freshwater ecosystems provide vital services, yet are facing increasing risks from global change. In particular, lake thermal dynamics have been altered around the world as a result of climate change, necessitating a predictive understanding of how climate will continue to alter lakes in the future as well as the associated uncertainty in these predictions. Numerous sources of uncertainty affect projections of future lake conditions but few are quantified, limiting the use of lake modeling projections as management tools. To quantify and evaluate the effects of two potentially important sources of uncertainty, lake model selection uncertainty and climate model selection uncertainty, we developed ensemble projections of lake thermal dynamics for a dimictic lake in New Hampshire, USA (Lake Sunapee). Our ensemble projections used four different climate models as inputs to five vertical one-dimensional (1-D) hydrodynamic lake models under three different climate change scenarios to simulate thermal metrics from 2006 to 2099. We found that almost all the lake thermal metrics modeled (surface water temperature, bottom water temperature, Schmidt stability, stratification duration, and ice cover, but not thermocline depth) are projected to change over the next century. Importantly, we found that the dominant source of uncertainty varied among the thermal metrics, as thermal metrics associated with the surface waters (surface water temperature, total ice duration) were driven primarily by climate model selection uncertainty, while metrics associated with deeper depths (bottom water temperature, stratification duration) were dominated by lake model selection uncertainty. Consequently, our results indicate that researchers generating projections of lake bottom water metrics should prioritize including multiple lake models for best capturing projection uncertainty, while those focusing on lake surface metrics should prioritize including multiple climate models. Overall, our ensemble modeling study reveals important information on how climate change will affect lake thermal properties, and also provides some of the first analyses on how climate model selection uncertainty and lake model selection uncertainty interact to affect projections of future lake dynamics. 
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  10. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2024