Draft_ Ecological Benefit Quantification

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Proposal for Data-Driven Hierarchical Decision Making
I. Introduction
The selection of alternative restoration plans and operational strategies for the
highly complex system that is the Florida Everglades constitutes a multiobjective decision making problem of unprecedented dimension. From the
perspective of the scientist, the system is characterized by uncertainty; of
measurements, model representation and interconnectivity of the restoration
objectives. For stakeholders, scientist or not, the evaluation of competing plans is
impeded by myriad, often competing and likely overlapping criteria known as
the Performance Measures (PMs). Decision making is further complicated by the
lack of guidelines for weighting of the PMs, a subjective process subject to
concerns regarding consistency, transparency and repeatability of results.
Finally, the spatial extent of the system and spatial distribution of PMs, reliance
on model results versus monitoring and uncertain sensitivity of ecological assets
to perturbations of the PMs must be considering in restoration plan evaluations.
This proposal will describe a two part process for evaluating restoration plan
alternatives addressing the two major uncertainties that that impact selection.
The first uncertainty relates to the information content of the PMs and data used
to evaluate them. The second addresses the uncertainty associated with the
weighting of the many PMs for use in scoring alternative plans. In accordance
with this characterization of the decision problem, the proposal components are:
Optimization of PM data information content in support of decision
making. Methods to reduce uncertainty and characterize relationships, if
they exist, between performance measures based on pattern recognition
and noise reduction techniques, among others. Such techniques may be
used to optimize the information content of the available data such that
the subjective process of criteria weighting is based on true trade-offs.
Analytical Hierarchical Process (AHP) incorporating the Delphi Method
of decision making based on expert opinion elicitation. AHP systematizes
the multi-objective decision making to enforce consistency while the
Delphi Method uses an iterative process that engenders consensus and
reduces uncertainty (spread) in judgments produced by diverse decision
The result is a multi-objective decision process specifically tailored for the
complexities of the Florida Everglades restoration.
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II. Optimization of Information Content in Data
Performance Measures and model output are used to evaluate the expected
outcomes of different operational alternatives. Each has associated uncertainty
and unrevealed connectivity that jeopardizes the meaningfulness of
straightforward combinations and evaluations of resulting values. Furthermore,
overlap and redundancy in measures, measures that are difficult to model, and
obscuring of key causative processes due to a focus on endpoints may lead to
decision making based on false tradeoffs and evaluation of inferior alternatives
in a Pareto sense. For example, Performance Measures may appear nominatively
independent as defined by stakeholders but in fact be highly correlated with PMs
independently derived by separate stakeholders. Some PMs are distributed over
space and time and it is not transparent that all locations or timeframes should be
treated equally. Yet each PM is an indication of a particular impact that is
important to at least one group of stakeholders and these evaluation points
should not be discarded. For this reason a method is required that preserves the
information content of each PM while accounting for these various sources of
Tools are available that define, in a statistical sense, relationships between
correlated and causally connected data, such as the PMs. One example of such a
method is Principal Component Analysis (PCA). PCA is a mapping of a data set
of n measures and m realizations from their original n x m dimensional space to
a new n x m dimensional space that maximizes the modes of variability within
the data set and is defined by orthogonal axes. Using PCA on the set of PMs,
including spatially distributed PMs, will assign a weight to each PM objectively
based on its contribution to each mode of variability. In addition, the use of PCA
with a dataset with significant cross-correlations often yields the result that there
are p modes that explain most of the variability of the measures and that p << n.
This is a welcome result as it allows the subjective process of prioritizing PMs to
be performed on a much smaller set of measures.
The benefits of PCA as applied to the PMs extend beyond the reduction in
dimension of performance measures. The nebulous interconnections between
PMs defies identification of true tradeoffs. In that sense, it is not clear that any
alternative is located on the Pareto frontier of non-inferior, feasible alternatives.
At the Pareto frontier for a set of PMs, the PMs would be maximized to the extent
that any further improvement in one via a decision variable necessitates a
decrease in another. Identification of the Pareto frontier requires an orthogonal,
or uncorrelated relationship between PMs. Figure 1 displays the hypothetical
case of two orthogonal PMs and a hypothetical set of PM values for competing
alternatives. In this case a lower value of the PM is better for each and thus the
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Pareto frontier is the subset of values that have no values located below and left
of them. Realignment of the PMs along the orthogonal modes of maximum
variability allows one to move from within the alternative space to the Pareto
frontier, as depicted in the figure, although in actuality it is the axes that move.
The PCA of PMs insures orthogonality of the resultant measures, which are
linear combinations of the individual PM values. Any point along this frontier is
optimal in the Pareto sense, although each point assigns a different priority or
weight to each PM. Thus within this subset the optimal tradeoffs can be decided.
The final benefit of the PCA of the PMs is the possible identification of key causal
processes. Once the major modes of variability within the set of PMs are defined,
one can analyze investigate these modes are linked to a key causal process, one
that influences a large subset of PMs but may not have been identified as an
important objective in and of itself. It is further possible that these key processes
may be physically monitored and provide important feedback regarding the
performance of selected alternatives and adaptively managed operation that
would not be possible for a large set of spatially distributed PMs. A Bayesian
network analysis will conducted to assess the causes of variability in the PM set
and for identification of the key causal processes for each mode of variability.
III. Criteria (Performance Measure) Weighting
Once the available data has been processed to yield the transparent information
content the second stage of the proposal can begin implemented. Here, again,
there are two challenges: achieving consensus opinion for the ranking of the
criteria, or PM, and quantification of that ranking. Returning the example of two
orthogonal PM, one can envision this step as moving along the Pareto frontier to
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select the weightings, wi and wj that in turn reveal the optimal alternative. The
Analytic Hierarchy Process will be used to quantify the subjective rankings.
Within this process, the Delphi Method will be used for eliciting expert opinion.
Each is described below.
Analytic Hierarchy Process
Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) is a quantitative technique of subjective
judgments (Saaty, 1980; Saaty and Alexander, 1981). AHP has been successful in
cases where multi-objectives (i.e., multiple criteria or multi-attribute decision
making) have to be satisfied for decision making when there are several
alternatives and a hierarchy of objectives does not exist. Let n again be the
number of items (i.e., performance measures) being considered with the goal of
providing and quantifying judgments on the relative weight, importance, and
priority of each item with respect to the rest. In AHP, the problem is formulated
in several layers, the first being the satisfaction of the objectives represents the
top, followed by the criteria and finally the alternatives.
The challenge that AHP solves is subjectively assigning ranks to rival
criteria, i.e., the performance measures. While this subjective element can not be
eliminated from multi-objective decision making, AHP systematizes the process
to insure consistency and transparency in the rankings The weighting process is
conducted as follows. Pair-wise comparisons are carried out by stakeholders
between all measures with respect to their contribution toward the overarching
objectives of the restoration. Returning to our previous example, stakeholders or
decision makers need to decide which of the two PMs in figure 1 is more
important. The preference strength is expressed on a ratio scale of 1-9 (Saaty,
1980). The resulting matrix of the pairwise comparison A  R nn is necessarily
reciprocal with aii  1 and aij  1 a ji . If judgments are completely consistent then
by providing the first row of A one could deduce the rest of the elements due to
the transitivity of the relative importance of the items. In practice, consistency is
not assumed and the process of comparison for each column of the matrix is
carried out. Suppose that at the end of the comparisons, we have filled the matrix
A with the exact relative weights; if we multiply the matrix with the vector of
preferences w  ( w1 , w2 ,..., wn ) we obtain:
Aw  nw or  A  nIw  0
To recover the overall score from the matrix of ratios the homogeneous linear
equations from (1) must be solved. Since n is an eigenvalue of A thus we would
have a nontrivial solution, unique to within a multiplicative constant, with all
positive entries. Small perturbation in the coefficient implies perturbations in the
resulting eigenvalues. From the nature of the matrix the maximum eigenvalue
has to equal n and its corresponding eigenvector w gives a unique estimate of
the underlying ratio scale between the elements of the problem. The consistency
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index could be easily measured to evaluate the degree of uniqueness in the
solution and it measure the error due to inconsistency. The consistency ratio (CR)
reflects the consistency of the pair-wise judgments and shows the degree to
which various sets of importance relativities can be reconciled into a single set of
weights a to verify the goodness of the judgments (Satty, 1981; Ahti and Raimo,
2001). In literature there are threshold CR’s that could be estimated and they
provide guidelines for recommendations regarding the pair-wise comparison
matrix. This process is described for only one level in the hierarchy. Hierarchical
composition should be used to combine all the levels. The sum is taken over all
weighted eigenvector entries corresponding to those in the lower level, and so on,
resulting in a global priority vector for the lowest level of the hierarchy.
Implementation of AHP is shown schematically in figure 2.
Delphi Method
Participatory decision-making is frequently advocated for resolving issues
involving common pool resources that have been traditionally decided by
governments or their agencies. Participatory approaches are still subject to social
asymmetries in power and access and may fall prey to the usual inequities
common to centralized approaches, where certain economic or social classes,
ethnic groups or genders dominate. In addition, it is not clear that the results of
participatory decision-making are better than the results that would be derived
from a single informed decision maker. Results may, in fact, be worse. Still,
involving stakeholders in the decision process for resources that affect their
livelihoods is deemed beneficial it its own right. The decrease in the accuracy or
quality of decision is less than the benefit gained by including stakeholders in the
decision. We make the assumption that stakeholder decision-making is desirable
and will be a factor in most future common pool resource decisions. The
questions we would like to address are: what elements of group decisionmaking degrade the quality of the decision; and with these elements identified,
can the process be designed to improve the quality of the decision. We are
especially interested in decision-making under uncertainty regarding natural
resources, and we examine the specific case of water resources.
While the adage “two heads are better than one” is generally accepted as true
and could be extended to the “n heads” case, the way in which the heads interact
may detract from the benefit of the increased number of participants. The Delphi
Method evolved from this observation. It was developed by the RAND
Corporation as a method to maximize the benefit of opinions from groups of
experts on complex and uncertain questions. The Delphi Method was designed
to minimize detrimental elements of group decision-making, namely the biasing
effects of dominant individuals, irrelevant communications (noise) and group
pressure toward conformity. This was accomplished through soliciting opinions
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on questionnaires, providing selective feedback to the group based on the first
round answers, then repeating the solicitation of opinions with a modified
questionnaire. Their trials found that the resulting answers were often more
accurate than those produced by face to face meetings of experts in controlled
studies. Dinar et al. (2004) used this approach to estimate the probability of
success for irrigation reforms in Pakistan.
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Ecological benefit
Analyze rank reversal using
ANOVA and F-test
(Problem recognition)
Perform pairwise
Run PCA for evaluation of the
relationships between PMs and
their importance
Define the probability
distribution and
probability matrix
Estimate the impact of
Replicate the eigenvectors
Select a set of PM for further
(Monte Carlo Simulation or
Bayesian networks)
Perform "what if" scenario
using sensitivity charts
Select a group of subject matter
experts for preference assignments
Is the
index <
Perform "confirmatory AHP
Refine the preference
Use sensitivity
Define scope and boundaries
of AHP
Hierarchy decomposition
and strategy analysis
Benefits quantification and
alternative selection
Eliminate insensitive
Analysis of confidence
Figure 2: Integrated framework for ecological benefit quantification.
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Saaty, T.L.,1980. The Analytic Hierarchy Process. McGraw Hill, New York.
Saaty, T.L., and J. M. Alexander, 1981. Thinking with Models. Pergamon Press.
Banuelasy, R. and J. Antony, 2004. Modified analytic hierarchy process to
incorporate uncertainty and managerial aspects. International Journal of
Production Research, 42 (18), pp: 3851–3872.
Ahti A. S. and P. H. Raimo, 2001. Preference Ratios in Multiattribute Evaluation
(PRIME)—Elicitation and Decision Procedures Under Incomplete
Information. IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, 31 (6).
ulall: I have it as follows --> All PMs derive from water variables and are typically monotonic
functions of them...hence we know that they will be correlated, so it makes sense to come up
with a weighted measure that reduces them to an index. However, there may be a hierarchy of
relations between them and some may be negatively correlated (e.g., flood reduction and
ecological releases), so important to filter out how they are related as well and present it --- this
corresponds to your data analysis step. Underlying is the thought that the importance variable or
index needs to be connected back to simple observable and measurable hydrologic and ecologic
state variables, not just model computed stuff. So, if we can compare model hydro variable (time
series) with observed and characterize
ulall: reliability/uncertainty in the primary variable, then we can propagate that into the PM and
hence into the weighted PM based index, using Bayes nets, thus recognizing explicitly how we
connected the many pieces. Even though they have 10 or so PMs now, these are defined at
many spatial locations and over time, so aggregation into an index that can be logically
disaggregated and maintaining the hierarchy of relations -- ie recovering where the index is
coming from and how each measurable piece simultaneously impacts many PMs is important to
ulall: We can do the reduction via PCA on model time series of PMs. In this case we'll have +ve
and -ve coeffs in each eigenvector and we focus on identifying simultaneous +ve and -ve impacts
-- for obviously +ve and -vely correlated variables this makes sense, but the eigencoeffs can be +
and - for even +vely correlated variables which would make subsequent interpretation difficult.
ulall: So, at this stage we can use also Archetype Analysis which is like PCa except that it uses
only +ve weights and then we can say that a particular PC is composed of x1, x2, xi % of each
each of the PMs. Of course if we know that the PMs fall in 2 groups -- mutually +vely and
mutually -vely correlated then we can just multiply one group by a -ve and then have archetype
PCs that are meaningful.
ulall: So, in the first stage, we use a dimension reduction step -- likely PCA or archetype but also
explore BNs
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caseyobrown: got it so far. am thinking delphi method used to come to consensus for
interpretation of pcs after our initial cut prior to AHP, make sure raters are using same info
ulall: yes --!! however, we still need to deal with space and time to some extent -ulall: lets take time -- they will have one PM number from 1 run I think which will be the total time
average for that PM over the model run for that spatial box or region
caseyobrown: ok
ulall: so, ideally if PM=PMbase or value for base conditions, it would be good to know the
number of years in which PMalt >PMbase
caseyobrown: ok
ulall: so ideally I would want to compute PM as a time series for all alts including base and then
use the diff from base to develop my aggregated PM score -- and then I also have its PDF
instead of just mean value
ulall: so the idea is that we could then convert the PC of the PMs (defined as this diff PM) into a
pdf as well
caseyobrown: ok i see this, but problem is pc < or> not clear which is better possibly
ulall: Then we are still stuck with as many such pdfs for each PM as there are spatial locations
caseyobrown: but can ignore this as detail for later
ulall: well -- the simplest case is that the mean of the PC (of PM) time series is their equivalent
score or index
ulall: and we now have a pdf for that score -- I expect that the pdf is more for our benefit to
design an internal algorithm than for overt discussion with stakeholders
caseyobrown: ok, yep, remembering we're in time dimension only.
ulall: yes space is messy
ulall: so now space -- first thought is that one should average over space for each time step -- but
how should such an average be computed
caseyobrown: within single PM?
ulall: 1) arith mean of the diff based PM at each location ? -- this gives me a time series for each
PM averaged over space
ulall: yes within single PM -- else hard to make any sense
caseyobrown: PCA provides weight according to effect on variance-seems good
ulall: however, we expect that there may be strong correlations across space within a PM -some areas are all +vely impacted while others are -vely impacted
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caseyobrown: and some pms are deadends, others key points that influence downstream
ulall: yes u r right so 2) is to take PCA across space using time correlation for a given PM and
that gives us our PM time series aggregated over space
ulall: then we do pca across these spatial PCs for PMs -- fear is that if the leading PC or 2 does
not pick up most of the variance we are starting to lose spatial detail and then pm detail
ulall: but these are details to worry about when we work and not so much for proposal perhaps
ulall: Now, if we can get stakeholders to see the degree of overlap between 2 alts in terms of
leading pcpms, if one clearly dominates the other they may "vote" for that alt -- if it does not, then
they will want to understand more, and perhaps revise even their weights on original PMs -where they can now be quickly shown how changing those weights impacts the PCPM structure.
-- iek maintianing correspondence between aggregate and disaggregate representations while
the hydro variable that is measured remains the same
ulall: so this still sounds more like delphi than AHP in that we are trying to facilitate the process of
their voting for alternatives rather than expressing prefs for PM weights or scores
ulall: I think this is an important difference --since the AHp tryies to get weights for PMs which
then are used to choose an optikmal solution and the stakeholder is asked to accept the blackbox
caseyobrown: ok, i see. iterative with explanations of why choosing one over the other as
effective of ranking pms
caseyobrown: transparency and ability to iterate probably extremely important for acceptance
ulall: whereas in Delphi with votes as to alternatives and discussion re intermediates and impacts
of weights etc you proceed more directly towards participatory selection of the alternative rather
than participatory slection of weights and then black box for solution
caseyobrown: exactly
ulall: so you agree -- good -- then we need to work this into the strategy in a coherent way
ulall: and mention AHP and Delphi as possibly complementary but likely competing ways to
address the problem -- complementary if weights pre-PCA are selected using AHP -- but not sure
if that makes sense
caseyobrown: maybe abed can answer that best. seems that still presents the problem of no
consensus/negotiation on weighting if done prior to pca because meaning will not be clear