The effect of parameter variability in the allometric projection of leaf growth rates for eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) II: the importance of data quality control procedures in bias reduction

Theor Biol Med Model. 2015 Dec 1;12:30. doi: 10.1186/s12976-015-0025-y.


Background: Eelgrass grants important ecological benefits including a nursery for waterfowl and fish species, shoreline stabilization, nutrient recycling and carbon sequestration. Upon the exacerbation of deleterious anthropogenic influences, re-establishment of eelgrass beds has mainly depended on transplantation. Productivity estimations provide valuable information for the appraisal of the restoration of ecological functions of natural populations. Assessments over early stages of transplants should preferably be nondestructive. Allometric scaling of eelgrass leaf biomass in terms of matching length provides a proxy that reduces leaf biomass and productivity estimations to simple measurements of leaf length and its elongation over a period. We examine how parameter variability impacts the accuracy of the considered proxy and the extent on what data quality and sample size influence the uncertainties of the involved allometric parameters.

Methods: We adapted a Median Absolute Deviation data quality control procedure to remove inconsistencies in the crude data. For evaluating the effect of parametric uncertainty we performed both a formal exploration and an analysis of the sensitivity of the allometric projection method to parameter changes. We used parameter estimates obtained by means of nonlinear regression from crude as well as processed data.

Results: We obtained reference leaf growth rates by allometric projection using parameter estimates produced by the crude data, and then considered changes in fitted parameters bounded by the modulus of the vector of the linked standard errors, we found absolute deviations up to 10% of reference values. After data quality control, the equivalent maximum deviation was under 7% of corresponding reference rates. Therefore, the addressed allometric method is robust. Even the smaller sized samples in the quality controlled dataset produced better accuracy levels than the whole set of crude data.

Conclusions: We propose quality control of data as a highly recommended step in the overall procedure that leads to reliable allometric surrogates of eelgrass leaf growth rates. The proliferation of inconsistent replicates in the crude data points towards the importance of discarding incomplete leaves. We also recommend avoiding errors in estimating the biomass of small leaves for which precision of the used analytical scale might be an issue.

MeSH terms

  • Bias
  • Biomass
  • Data Accuracy*
  • Plant Leaves / anatomy & histology
  • Plant Leaves / growth & development*
  • Quality Control
  • Sample Size
  • Zosteraceae / growth & development*