Authors contributed equally to this manuscript.
Incorporating uncertainty and prior information into stable isotope mixing models
Article first published online: 21 FEB 2008
© 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/CNRS
Volume 11, Issue 5, pages 470–480, May 2008
How to Cite
Moore, J. W. and Semmens, B. X. (2008), Incorporating uncertainty and prior information into stable isotope mixing models. Ecology Letters, 11: 470–480. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01163.x
- Issue published online: 21 FEB 2008
- Article first published online: 21 FEB 2008
- Editor, Tim Wootton Manuscript received 11 October 2007 First decision made 6 November 2007 Second decision made 9 January 2008 Manuscript accepted 16 January 2008
- food web;
- isotopic fractionation;
- rainbow trout;
- sampling importance resampling
Stable isotopes are a powerful tool for ecologists, often used to assess contributions of different sources to a mixture (e.g. prey to a consumer). Mixing models use stable isotope data to estimate the contribution of sources to a mixture. Uncertainty associated with mixing models is often substantial, but has not yet been fully incorporated in models. We developed a Bayesian-mixing model that estimates probability distributions of source contributions to a mixture while explicitly accounting for uncertainty associated with multiple sources, fractionation and isotope signatures. This model also allows for optional incorporation of informative prior information in analyses. We demonstrate our model using a predator–prey case study. Accounting for uncertainty in mixing model inputs can change the variability, magnitude and rank order of estimates of prey (source) contributions to the predator (mixture). Isotope mixing models need to fully account for uncertainty in order to accurately estimate source contributions.