Multimodel inference and adaptive management

Sarah E. Rehme, Larkin A. Powell, Craig R. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Ecology is an inherently complex science coping with correlated variables, nonlinear interactions and multiple scales of pattern and process, making it difficult for experiments to result in clear, strong inference. Natural resource managers, policy makers, and stakeholders rely on science to provide timely and accurate management recommendations. However, the time necessary to untangle the complexities of interactions within ecosystems is often far greater than the time available to make management decisions. One method of coping with this problem is multimodel inference. Multimodel inference assesses uncertainty by calculating likelihoods among multiple competing hypotheses, but multimodel inference results are often equivocal. Despite this, there may be pressure for ecologists to provide management recommendations regardless of the strength of their study's inference. We reviewed papers in the Journal of Wildlife Management (JWM) and the journal Conservation Biology (CB) to quantify the prevalence of multimodel inference approaches, the resulting inference (weak versus strong), and how authors dealt with the uncertainty. Thirty-eight percent and 14%, respectively, of articles in the JWM and CB used multimodel inference approaches. Strong inference was rarely observed, with only 7% of JWM and 20% of CB articles resulting in strong inference. We found the majority of weak inference papers in both journals (59%) gave specific management recommendations. Model selection uncertainty was ignored in most recommendations for management. We suggest that adaptive management is an ideal method to resolve uncertainty when research results in weak inference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1360-1364
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptive inference
  • Adaptive management
  • Hypothesis testing
  • Multimodel inference
  • Uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Multimodel inference and adaptive management'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this