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Applying optimal control theory to a spatial simulation model of sudden oak death: ongoing surveillance protects tanoak while conserving biodiversity.

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Bussell, EH 
Cunniffe, NJ 


Sudden oak death has devastated tree populations across California. However, management might still slow disease spread at local scales. We demonstrate how to unambiguously characterize effective, local management strategies using a detailed, spatially explicit simulation model of spread in a single forest stand. This pre-existing, parameterized simulation is approximated here by a carefully calibrated, non-spatial model, explicitly constructed to be sufficiently simple to allow optimal control theory (OCT) to be applied. By lifting management strategies from the approximate model to the detailed simulation, effective time-dependent controls can be identified. These protect tanoak-a culturally and ecologically important species-while conserving forest biodiversity within a limited budget. We also consider model predictive control, in which both the approximating model and optimal control are repeatedly updated as the epidemic progresses. This allows management which is robust to both parameter uncertainty and systematic differences between simulation and approximate models. Including the costs of disease surveillance then introduces an optimal intensity of surveillance. Our study demonstrates that successful control of sudden oak death is likely to rely on adaptive strategies updated via ongoing surveillance. More broadly, it illustrates how OCT can inform effective real-world management, even when underpinning disease spread models are highly complex.



disease management, model predictive control, optimal control, sudden oak death, Biodiversity, Computer Simulation, Forests, Phytophthora, Quercus

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J R Soc Interface

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The Royal Society


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Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (1643594)
BBSRC (1643594)
BBSRC DTP Studentship