Objectives for multiple-species conservation planning.

The Ecology Centre, School of Integrative Biology, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia.
Conservation Biology (Impact Factor: 4.32). 07/2006; 20(3):871-81. DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2006.00369.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The first step in conservation planning is to identify objectives. Most stated objectives for conservation, such as to maximize biodiversity outcomes, are too vague to be useful within a decision-making framework. One way to clarify the issue is to define objectives in terms of the risk of extinction for multiple species. Although the assessment of extinction risk for single species is common, few researchers have formulated an objective function that combines the extinction risks of multiple species. We sought to translate the broad goal of maximizing the viability of species into explicit objectives for use in a decision-theoretic approach to conservation planning. We formulated several objective functions based on extinction risk across many species and illustrated the differences between these objectives with simple examples. Each objective function was the mathematical representation of an approach to conservation and emphasized different levels of threat. Our objectives included minimizing the joint probability of one or more extinctions, minimizing the expected number of extinctions, and minimizing the increase in risk of extinction from the best-case scenario. With objective functions based on joint probabilities of extinction across species, any correlations in extinction probabilities had to be known or the resultant decisions were potentially misleading. Additive objectives, such as the expected number of extinctions, did not produce the same anomalies. We demonstrated that the choice of objective function is central to the decision-making process because alternative objective functions can lead to a different ranking of management options. Therefore, decision makers need to think carefully in selecting and defining their conservation goals.

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