On the use of multi-algorithm, genetically adaptive multi-objective method for multi-site calibration of the SWAT model

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With the availability of spatially distributed data, distributed hydrologic models are increasingly used for simulation of spatially varied hydrologic processes to understand and manage natural and human activities that affect watershed systems. Multi-objective optimization methods have been applied to calibrate distributed hydrologic models using observed data from multiple sites. As the time consumed by running these complex models is increasing substantially, selecting efficient and effective multi-objective optimization algorithms is becoming a nontrivial issue. In this study, we evaluated a multi-algorithm, genetically adaptive multi-objective method (AMALGAM) for multi-site calibration of a distributed hydrologic model—Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), and compared its performance with two widely used evolutionary multi-objective optimization (EMO) algorithms (i.e. Strength Pareto Evolutionary Algorithm 2 (SPEA2) and Non-dominated Sorted Genetic Algorithm II (NSGA-II)). In order to provide insights into each method's overall performance, these three methods were tested in four watersheds with various characteristics. The test results indicate that the AMALGAM can consistently provide competitive or superior results compared with the other two methods. The multi-method search framework of AMALGAM, which can flexibly and adaptively utilize multiple optimization algorithms, makes it a promising tool for multi-site calibration of the distributed SWAT. For practical use of AMALGAM, it is suggested to implement this method in multiple trials with relatively small number of model runs rather than run it once with long iterations. In addition, incorporating different multi-objective optimization algorithms and multi-mode search operators into AMALGAM deserves further research. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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