Encapsulating model complexity and landscape-scale analyses of state-and-transition simulation models: an application of ecoinformatics and juniper encroachment in sagebrush steppe ecosystems

Product Type: 

Journal Article

Year: 

2015

Author(s): 

O’Donnell, M.S.

Suggested Citation: 

O’Donnell, M.S.. 2015. Encapsulating model complexity and landscape-scale analyses of state-and-transition simulation models: an application of ecoinformatics and juniper encroachment in sagebrush steppe ecosystems. AIMS Environmental Science. 2(3): 464-493.

State-and-transition simulation modeling relies on knowledge of vegetation composition and structure (states) that describe community conditions, mechanistic feedbacks such as fire that can affect vegetation establishment, and ecological processes that drive community conditions as well as the transitions between these states. However, as the need for modeling larger and more complex landscapes increase, a more advanced awareness of computing resources becomes essential. The objectives of this study include identifying challenges of executing state-and-transition simulation models, identifying common bottlenecks of computing resources, developing a workflow and software that enable parallel processing of Monte Carlo simulations, and identifying the advantages and disadvantages of different computing resources. To address these objectives, this study used the ApexRMS® SyncroSim software and embarrassingly parallel tasks of Monte Carlo simulations on a single multicore computer and on distributed computing systems. The results demonstrated that state-and-transition simulation models scale best in distributed computing environments, such as high-throughput and high-performance computing, because these environments disseminate the workloads across many compute nodes, thereby supporting analysis of larger landscapes, higher spatial resolution vegetation products, and more complex models. Using a case study and five different computing environments, the top result (high-throughput computing versus serial computations) indicated an approximate 96.6% decrease of computing time. With a single, multicore compute node (bottom result), the computing time indicated an 81.8% decrease relative to using serial computations. These results provide insight into the tradeoffs of using different computing resources when research necessitates advanced integration of ecoinformatics incorporating large and complicated data inputs and models.

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Michael O'Donnell
Michael O'Donnell