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Is the science underpinning MEDLI still up to date?

There is increasing reliance on our model predictions for land use decision making and regulation, yet many model algorithms are based on science which has not been reviewed since the early 1990s.

While George Box offers a useful maxim that "all models are wrong, but some are useful”, he goes on to say that "since all models are wrong, the scientist must be alert to what is importantly wrong"[1]. This raises the question of do we know what is "importantly wrong" with our models?

Although the primary focus of this project (The QWMN MEDLI Science Review) was to review the science underpinning the Soil hydrology, Soil Nitrogen & Phosphorus, and Pond Chemistry modules of the MEDLI model (Model for Effluent Disposal using Land Irrigation), it was recognised that the findings should be relevant to other QWMN 1-D paddock scale models such as HowLeaky? and APSIM which currently use similar approaches for modelling soil hydrology and nutrients.

What now?

The review demonstrates that there are many opportunities to improve our understanding of soil hydrology and nutrient processes. QWMN have recently extended the review to include an in-depth review of soil hydrology modelling by an expert soil physicist (Prof. Freeman Cook). All reports will be made available on the QWMN website.


Critical to this undertaking was the fulsome support of our EcoScience Precinct librarians, Cecelia Carroll and Anne Tobin, with their MENDELEY reference software tool.

[1] Box, G. E. P. (1976). Journal of the American Statistical Association, Vol. 71, No. 356 (Dec), pp. 791-799.

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