Using Bayesian networks to predict risk to estuary water quality and patterns of benthic environmental DNA in Queensland

Scarlett E. Graham, Anthony A. Chariton, Wayne G. Landis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


Predictive modeling can inform natural resource management by representing stressor–response pathways in a logical way and quantifying the effects on selected endpoints. This study demonstrates a risk assessment model using the Bayesian network relative risk model (BN‐RRM) approach to predict water quality and, for the first time, eukaryote environmental DNA (eDNA) data as a measure of benthic community structure. Environmental DNA sampling is a technique for biodiversity measurements that involves extracting DNA from environmental samples, amplicon sequencing a targeted gene, in this case the 18s rDNA gene (which targets eukaryotes), and matching the sequences to organisms. Using a network of probability distributions, the BN‐RRM model predicts risk to water quality objectives and the relative richness of benthic taxa groups in the Noosa, Pine, and Logan estuaries in Southeast Queensland (SEQ), Australia. The model predicts Dissolved Oxygen more accurately than the chlorophyll a water quality endpoint and photosynthesizing benthos more accurately than heterotrophs. Results of BN‐RRM modelling given current inputs indicate that the water quality and benthic assemblages of the Noosa are relatively homogenous across all sub risk regions, and that the Noosa has a 73%–92% probability of achieving water quality objectives, indicating a low relative risk. Conversely, the Middle Logan, Middle Pine, and Lower Pine regions are much less likely to meet objectives (15%–55% probability), indicating a relatively higher risk to water quality in those regions. The benthic community richness patterns associated with risk in the Noosa are high Diatom relative richness and low Green Algae relative richness. The only benthic pattern consistently associated with the relatively higher risk to water quality is high richness of fungi species. The BN‐RRM model provides a basis for future predictions and adaptive management at the direction of resource managers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-111
Number of pages19
JournalIntegrated Environmental Assessment and Management
Issue number1
Early online date17 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • water quality
  • environmental DNA (eDNA)
  • Bayesian networks
  • ecological risk assessment
  • Water quality
  • Environmental DNA (eDNA)
  • Bayesian network
  • Ecological risk assessment

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