© The Author(s), 2015. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Estuaries and Coasts 39 (2016): 311-332, doi:10.1007/s12237-015-0011-y.
Numerical modeling has emerged over the last several decades as a widely accepted tool for investigations in environmental sciences. In estuarine research, hydrodynamic and ecological models have moved along parallel tracks with regard to complexity, refinement, computational power, and incorporation of uncertainty. Coupled hydrodynamic-ecological models have been used to assess ecosystem processes and interactions, simulate future scenarios, and evaluate remedial actions in response to eutrophication, habitat loss, and freshwater diversion. The need to couple hydrodynamic and ecological models to address research and management questions is clear because dynamic feedbacks between biotic and physical processes are critical interactions within ecosystems. In this review, we present historical and modern perspectives on estuarine hydrodynamic and ecological modeling, consider model limitations, and address aspects of model linkage, skill assessment, and complexity. We discuss the balance between spatial and temporal resolution and present examples using different spatiotemporal scales. Finally, we recommend future lines of inquiry, approaches to balance complexity and uncertainty, and model transparency and utility. It is idealistic to think we can pursue a “theory of everything” for estuarine models, but recent advances suggest that models for both scientific investigations and management applications will continue to improve in terms of realism, precision, and accuracy.
NKG, ALA, and RPS acknowledge
support from the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Program.
DKR gratefully acknowledges support from NSF (OCE-1314642) and NIEHS (1P50-ES021923-01). MJB and JMPV gratefully acknowledge
support from NOAA NOS NCCOS (NA05NOS4781201 and
NA11NOS4780043). MJB and SJL gratefully acknowledge support from
the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program—Defense
Coastal/Estuarine Research Program (RC-1413 and RC-2245).
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