The potential of ecological models for supporting environmental decision making is increasingly acknowledged. However, it often remains unclear whether a model is realistic and reliable enough. Good practice for developing and testing ecological models has not yet been established. Therefore, TRACE, a general framework for documenting a model's rationale, design, and testing was recently suggested. Originally TRACE was aimed at documenting good modelling practice. However, the word ‘documentation’ does not convey TRACE's urgency. Therefore, we re-define TRACE as a tool for planning, performing, and documenting good modelling practice. TRACE documents should provide convincing evidence that a model was thoughtfully designed, correctly implemented, thoroughly tested, well understood, and appropriately used for its intended purpose. TRACE documents link the science underlying a model to its application, thereby also linking modellers and model users, for example stakeholders, decision makers, and developers of policies. We report on first experiences in producing TRACE documents. We found that the original idea underlying TRACE was valid, but to make its use more coherent and efficient, an update of its structure and more specific guidance for its use are needed. The updated TRACE format follows the recently developed framework of model ‘evaludation’: the entire process of establishing model quality and credibility throughout all stages of model development, analysis, and application. TRACE thus becomes a tool for planning, documenting, and assessing model evaludation, which includes understanding the rationale behind a model and its envisaged use. We introduce the new structure and revised terminology of TRACE and provide examples.
- individual-based model
- ecological risk-assessment