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Water Resources Research

Velocity estimation using a Bayesian network in a critical-habitat reach of the Kootenai River, Idaho

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Abstract

[1] Numerous numerical modeling studies have been completed in support of an extensive recovery program for the endangered white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) on the Kootenai River near Bonner's Ferry, ID. A technical hurdle in the interpretation of these model results is the transfer of information from the specialist to nonspecialist such that practical decisions utilizing the numerical simulations can be made. To address this, we designed and trained a Bayesian network to provide probabilistic prediction of depth-averaged velocity. Prediction of this critical parameter governing suitable spawning habitat was obtained by exploiting the dynamic relationships between variables derived from model simulations with associated parameter uncertainties. Postdesign assessment indicates that the most influential environmental variables in order of importance are river discharge, depth, and width, and water surface slope. We demonstrate that the probabilistic network not only reproduces the training data with accuracy similar to the accuracy of a numerical model (root-mean-squared error of 0.10 m/s), but that it makes reliable predictions on the same river at times and locations other than where the network was trained (root mean squared error of 0.09 m/s). Additionally, the network showed similar skill (root mean square error of 0.04 m/s) when predicting velocity on the Apalachicola River, FL, a river of similar shape and size to the Kootenai River where a related sturgeon population is also threatened.

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