Bayesian networks (BN) have increasingly been applied in water management but not to estimate the efficacy of riparian buffer zones (RBZ). Our methodical study aims at evaluating the first BN to predict the RBZ efficacy to retain sediment and nutrients (dissolved, total, and particulate nitrogen and phosphorus) from widely available variables (width, vegetation, slope, soil texture, flow pathway, nutrient form). To evaluate the influence of parent nodes and how the number of states affects prediction errors, we used a predefined general BN structure, collected 580 published datasets from North America and Europe, and performed classification tree analyses and multiple 10-fold cross-validations of different BNs. These errors ranged from 0.31 (two output states) to 0.66 (five states). The outcome remained unchanged without the least influential nodes (flow pathway, vegetation). Lower errors were achieved when parent nodes had more than two states. The number of efficacy states influenced most strongly the prediction error as its lowest and highest states were better predicted than intermediate states. While the derived BNs could support or replace simple design guidelines, they are limited for more detailed predictions. More representative data on vegetation or additional nodes like preferential flow will probably improve the predictive power.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited