Article

Setting conservation management thresholds using a novel participatory modeling approach: Conservation Management Thresholds

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Abstract

We devised a participatory modeling approach for setting management thresholds that show when management intervention is required to address undesirable ecosystem changes. This approach was designed to be used when management thresholds: must be set for environmental indicators in the face of multiple competing objectives; need to incorporate scientific understanding and value judgments; and will be set by participants with limited modeling experience. We applied our approach to a case study where management thresholds were set for a mat-forming brown alga, Hormosira banksii, in a protected area management context. Participants, including management staff and scientists, were involved in a workshop to test the approach, and set management thresholds to address the threat of trampling by visitors to an intertidal rocky reef. The approach involved trading off the environmental objective, to maintain the condition of intertidal reef communities, with social and economic objectives to ensure management intervention was cost-effective. Ecological scenarios, developed using scenario planning, were a key feature that provided the foundation for where to set management thresholds. The scenarios developed represented declines in percent cover of H. banksii that may occur under increased threatening processes. Participants defined 4 discrete management alternatives to address the threat of trampling and estimated the effect of these alternatives on the objectives under each ecological scenario. A weighted additive model was used to aggregate participants' consequence estimates. Model outputs (decision scores) clearly expressed uncertainty, which can be considered by decision makers and used to inform where to set management thresholds. This approach encourages a proactive form of conservation, where management thresholds and associated actions are defined a priori for ecological indicators, rather than reacting to unexpected ecosystem changes in the future.

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... State-dependent management is predicated on the idea that the most appropriate action to take at any given time is dependent on the current state of the system (Lyons et al., 2008), with the objective of maintaining the system within a desired set of conditions (Nichols & Williams, 2006). Defining what constitutes a desired condition is often a value judgment informed by evidence or knowledge about how the system functions (Addison et al., 2015). Successful state-dependent management also requires appropriate indicators to measure changes in condition through time, commitment to monitoring that can detect when undesirable changes have occurred, and clearly defined management actions linked to the boundaries between states to maintain or return the system to the desirable condition (Lyons et al., 2008). ...
... Conservation management largely revolves around the idea that there is a desired condition that one wants to maintain or return species and ecosystems to, so state-dependent management can be a practical approach to conservation decisionmaking. However, there are limited published examples of its application in practice (but see Scholes & Kruger, 2011;Addison et al., 2015). Despite calls for a global shift toward the adoption of evidence-based management decisions (Sutherland et al., 2004), conservation monitoring frequently still occurs without a plan for what action to take if undesirable changes are detected (Lindenmayer et al., 2013), resulting in species moving further into undesirable conditions despite documented declines (e.g., Martin et al., 2012). ...
... Complex decision-making scenarios that incorporate value judgments and manage trade-offs among competing objectives have clear parallels to the application of trigger points in conservation management, where trade-offs among social, economic, and ecological objectives are common. For example, setting cost-effective trigger points that protect species or ecosystems while maximizing visitor numbers that can access an area (Addison et al., 2015;Lee & Chang, 2015) or maximizing water use for economic development while ensuring continued wetland occupancy by desired species (Martin et al., 2009). Studies that explored trigger points that provided trade-offs between maximizing conservation outcomes with minimizing financial costs were common and often involved optimization methods, such as stochastic dynamic programming and loss functions (e.g., Field et al., 2004;Martin et al., 2009;Helmstedt & Possingham, 2017) (Table 2 & Appendix S7). ...
Article
Successful, state‐dependent management, where the goal of management is to maintain a system within a desired state, involves defining the boundaries between different states. Once these boundaries have been defined, managers require a strategic action plan, with thresholds that will initiate management interventions to either maintain or return the system to a desired state. This approach to management is widely used across diverse industries from agriculture to medicine to information technology, but has only been adopted in conservation management relatively recently. Conservation practitioners have expressed a willingness to integrate this structured approach into their management systems, but have also voiced concerns, including the lack of a robust process for doing so. Given the widespread use of state‐dependent management in other fields, we conducted an extensive review of the literature on threshold‐based management, to gain insight into how and where it is applied, and identify potential lessons for conservation management. We identified 22 industries using 75 different methods for setting management thresholds, spanning six broad analytical approaches, including expert driven, statistical, predictive, optimisation, experiments and artificial intelligence methods. We found that the objectives of each study influenced the approaches used, including the methods for setting thresholds and selecting actions, and the number of thresholds set. The role of value judgements in setting thresholds was clear, as studies across all industries frequently involved experts in setting thresholds, often accompanied by computational tools to simulate the consequences of proposed thresholds under different conditions. Of the 30 conservation studies identified, two thirds used expert‐driven methods, consistent with prior evidence that experience‐based information often drives conservation management decisions. The methods we identified from other disciplines could support conservation decision‐makers with setting thresholds for management interventions in different contexts, linking monitoring to management actions and ensuring that conservation interventions are timely and effective. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
... Consistent with moves towards evidence-based management, decision triggers have received increasing attention from conservation scientists to assist in the protection of biodiversity (e.g. Biggs & Rogers 2003;Martin et al. 2009;Nie & Schultz 2012;Addison, de Bie & Rumpff 2015). From an academic perspective, decision triggers facilitate proactive management through systematic, a priori consideration of the desired ecosystem state and the management interventions that can influence the status of that ecosystem (Martin et al. 2009;Addison, de Bie & Rumpff 2015). ...
... Biggs & Rogers 2003;Martin et al. 2009;Nie & Schultz 2012;Addison, de Bie & Rumpff 2015). From an academic perspective, decision triggers facilitate proactive management through systematic, a priori consideration of the desired ecosystem state and the management interventions that can influence the status of that ecosystem (Martin et al. 2009;Addison, de Bie & Rumpff 2015). Decision triggers also facilitate the direct use of monitoring data in evidence-based management, something criticized by academics as lacking in conservation (Lindenmayer, Piggott & Wintle 2013). ...
... The need for a clear distinction between ecological thresholds and decision triggers was an important issue for practitioners, to reiterate that ecological thresholds are not a necessary precursor for decision triggers (a stance supported in the scientific literature; Bennetts et al. 2007;Addison, de Bie & Rumpff 2015). This misconception was seen as an impediment to communicating decision trigger needs with the academic community. ...
... While some systematic conservation management frameworks, such as Open Standard for Conservation Practice (CMP, 2013), have approaches to guide indicator selection and monitoring, these lack guidance on the development of quantitative thresholds between condition categories (Addison et al., 2016). Although there have been methodological advances in developing quantitative condition categories (Addison et al., 2015a;Cook et al., 2016;Timko and Innes, 2009), these remain largely in the scientific literature and have not been translated into PAME evaluation guidelines (Fox et al., 2014). Without detailed guidelines to assist management agencies to operationalise certain stages of PAME, progress in quantitative condition assessment within the more than 100 countries currently conducting PAME (Leverington et al., 2010) is unlikely. ...
... This uncertainty can prevent practitioners from implementing quantitative condition assessment, such that their efforts are better focused on collecting more targeted monitoring data, investing in research and developing models to explore ecosystem dynamics (Addison et al., 2016). However, where adequate scientific evidence exists for an ecosystem (i.e., research into ecosystem interactions and monitoring to understand spatial and temporal dynamics), modelling approaches can be used to identify quantitative values of an indicator that represent desirable and undesirable condition categories, even in the face of uncertainty (Addison et al., 2015a;Cook et al., 2016). These approaches will be critical to developing the decision support tools that will move quantitative condition assessments forward in PA management agencies, supporting both evaluation and proactive conservation management. ...
... There are no easy solutions to these challenges, but we highlight current progress in developing decision support tools (e.g., quantitatively defined management thresholds or decision triggers to facilitate quantitative outcome assessment; Addison et al., 2015a;Cook et al., 2016), new approaches to finance conservation efforts (e.g., impact investing; Bos et al., 2015;Waldron et al., 2013), and the positive approaches to conduct more management relevant science (e.g., embedding scientists in management agencies; Cook et al., 2013). We acknowledge that there is unlikely to be a single solution to the challenge of achieving evidence-based conservation, but our findings will assist agencies around the world to target strategies and advance PAME evaluations toward best practice. ...
Article
Protected area management effectiveness (PAME) evaluation is increasingly undertaken to evaluate governance, assess conservation outcomes and inform evidence-based management of protected areas (PAs). Within PAME, quantitative approaches to assess biodiversity outcomes are now emerging, where biological monitoring data are directly assessed against quantitative (numerically defined) condition categories (termed quantitative condition assessments). However, more commonly qualitative condition assessments are employed in PAME, which use descriptive condition categories and are evaluated largely with expert judgement that can be subject to a range of biases, such as linguistic uncertainty and overconfidence. Despite the benefits of increased transparency and repeatability of evaluations, quantitative condition assessments are rarely used in PAME. To understand why, we interviewed practitioners from all Australian marine protected area (MPA) networks, which have access to long-term biological monitoring data and are developing or conducting PAME evaluations. Our research revealed that there is a desire within management agencies to implement quantitative condition assessment of biodiversity outcomes in Australian MPAs. However, practitioners report many challenges in transitioning from undertaking qualitative to quantitative condition assessments of biodiversity outcomes, which are hampering progress. Challenges include a lack of agency capacity (staff numbers and money), knowledge gaps, and diminishing public and political support for PAs. We point to opportunities to target strategies that will assist agencies overcome these challenges, including new decision support tools, approaches to better finance conservation efforts, and to promote more management relevant science. While a single solution is unlikely to achieve full evidence-based conservation, we suggest ways for agencies to target strategies and advance PAME evaluations toward best practice.
... A relatively poorly developed component of evidence-based management is supporting decisions about when and how conservation managers should act if a system enters an undesirable state (e.g., Nie and Schultz, 2012;Lindenmayer et al., 2013). To this end, there has been increasing focus on the need for some form of decision trigger that links monitoring data to management action to support environmental management (e.g., Biggs and Rogers, 2003;Martin et al., 2009;Addison et al., 2015b; Table 2). Similarly to other authors (Table 2), we define a decision trigger as a point or zone in the status of an ecological attribute that when crossed triggers a management decision. ...
... The value (point or zone) of an attribute that once crossed represents when management intervention is required to address undesirable ecosystem changes. Management thresholds can build on ecological knowledge (e.g., defined ecosystem condition) and regulatory standards* or utility thresholds* (e.g., Addison et al., 2015b). ...
... While there has been some debate about whether decision makers support the use of decision triggers (McAlpine et al., 2002;Bennetts et al., 2007), an increasing number of jurisdictions are attempting to integrate some form of decision trigger into their management practices. Several countries are developing or already using decision triggers to some extent within their conservation management practices (e.g., South Africa (Biggs and Rogers, 2003); United States (Martin et al., 2011); Australia (Addison et al., 2015b); Canada (Timko and Innes, 2009) and New Zealand (Cook et al. unpublished data)). ...
... South Africa uses thresholds in management practice (thresholds of potential concern; Biggs & Rogers, 2003) and several countries are shifting towards the adoption of trigger-based approaches (e.g. United States (Martin et al., 2011); Canada (Timko & Innes, 2009); Australia (Addison, de Bie, & Rumpff, 2015); New Zealand ). While methods and concepts that inform when to intervene in natural systems have been described in many ways (see Cook et al., 2016), we T A B L E 1 Key steps needed to develop decision triggers and where they align with steps in natural resource management frameworks (using terminology from each framework) ...
... Biggs & Rogers, 2003), but can also enable proactive management for a broader suite of contexts . Our definition also allows decision triggers to capture the economic, social, environmental and political dimensions, and complex trade-offs, that drive management (Addison et al., 2015;Adger et al., 2003). ...
... The development and effective integration of decision triggers relies on a robust process for decision-making, including steps for setting a decision context, identifying objectives and indicators, determining management actions, and conducting monitoring and evaluation (Addison et al., 2015;Biggs & Rogers, 2003;Martin et al., 2009) ( Figure 1). Many of these steps exist in several conservation management frameworks (Table 1). ...
Article
Decision triggers show great potential for facilitating timely management action, promoting evidence-based management and preventing undesirable changes to the status of species, ecosystems and threats. Integration of decision triggers into day-to-day management practice has been slow, constrained by insufficient resources and limited in-house expertise. Arguably, the greatest impediment is the lack of an overarching process with robust and accessible methods for developing and implementing decision triggers in a manner that fits within an organisation's established processes and skill sets. 2.We identify the steps necessary for setting decision triggers and highlight how these steps align with commonly used conservation planning and management frameworks, for ease of adoption. 3.We emphasise that decision triggers do not require a known ecological threshold, and can be applied to data rich and data poor contexts, with single or multiple management objectives. 4.Synthesis and applications. This work highlights the necessary steps involved, and importantly, the suite of methods that can be used to set decision triggers with the aim of supporting practitioners in the development of robust and defensible decision triggers. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... A proactive application of state-dependent management involves the use of decision triggers, which represent a point or zone in the status of a monitored variable indicating when management intervention is required to address undesirable ecosystem changes (Cook et al. 2016; Figure 1). Consistent with moves towards evidence-based management, decision triggers have received increasing attention from conservation scientists to assist in the protection of biodiversity (e.g., Biggs & Rogers 2003;Martin et al. 2009;Nie & Schultz 2012;Addison, de Bie & Rumpff 2015). From an academic perspective, decision triggers facilitate proactive management through systematic, a priori consideration of the desired ecosystem state and the management interventions that can influence the status of that ecosystem (Martin et al. 2009;Addison, de Bie & Rumpff 2015). ...
... Consistent with moves towards evidence-based management, decision triggers have received increasing attention from conservation scientists to assist in the protection of biodiversity (e.g., Biggs & Rogers 2003;Martin et al. 2009;Nie & Schultz 2012;Addison, de Bie & Rumpff 2015). From an academic perspective, decision triggers facilitate proactive management through systematic, a priori consideration of the desired ecosystem state and the management interventions that can influence the status of that ecosystem (Martin et al. 2009;Addison, de Bie & Rumpff 2015). Decision triggers also facilitate the direct use of monitoring data in evidence-based management, something criticised by academics as lacking in conservation (Lindenmayer, Piggott & Wintle 2013). ...
... The need for a clear distinction between ecological thresholds and decision triggers was an important issue for practitioners, to reiterate that ecological thresholds are not a necessary precursor for decision triggers (a stance supported in the scientific literature; Bennetts et al. 2007;Addison, de Bie & Rumpff 2015). This misconception was seen as an impediment to communicating decision trigger needs with the academic community. ...
Article
Protected area management organisations are on the front line of protecting biodiversity, and effective management is recognised as critical in halting the loss of biodiversity. Evidence-based management can help guide effective management of natural systems by integrating the best available evidence to support management decisions and evaluate management effectiveness. Over recent decades evidence-based management has started to emerge as an approach, in response to the need for increased transparency and to promote positive conservation outcomes (Ferraro & Pattanayak 2006). This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... Monitoring programmes that are based around a question such as 'is there any change in X as a consequence of the development' are limited ( §2.4); monitoring should occur in relation to thresholds with a threshold being defined as a "target level or state based on the avoidance of unacceptable outcomes or an ecologically defined shift in system status" [48]. Identifying suitable metrics and negotiating threshold values, which meet the above criteria is difficult, potentially requiring multi-stakeholder consultation [49], and may constitute a significant part (in time and resources) of any monitoring programme [50,51]. The requirement for quantitative regulatory thresholds in respect of the benthos is, however, already part of the EU MSFD and WFD and EU member states have developed numerous benthicdiversity-based metrics [52][53][54] to classify the ecological status of sediments. ...
... The scenario in Fig. 1 assumes that an initial threshold (defined via expert elicitation [49]) of 20 Units of Impact (UOI, Fig. 1, solid blue line) in the metric of interest has been identified beyond which change is considered unacceptable. In this example, expert opinion about the assessed impact indicates considerable uncertainty about the likely UOI (−10 to 30 UOI, Fig. 1 'Expert opinion') but that it is plausible that the threshold might be exceeded (Fig. 1,'Risk') and monitoring is deemed necessary. ...
Article
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Marine renewable energy developments (MREDs) are rapidly expanding in size and number as society strives to maintain electricity generation whilst simultaneously reducing climate-change linked CO2 emissions. MREDs are part of an ongoing large-scale modification of coastal waters that also includes activities such as commercial fishing, shipping, aggregate extraction, aquaculture, dredging, spoil-dumping and oil and gas exploitation. It is increasingly accepted that developments, of any kind, should only proceed if they are ecologically sustainable and will not reduce current or future delivery of ecosystem services. The benthos underpins crucial marine ecosystem services yet, in relation to MREDs, is currently poorly monitored: current monitoring programmes are extensive and costly yet provide little useful data in relation to ecosystem-scale-related changes, a situation called ‘data-rich, information-poor’ (DRIP). MRED –benthic interactions may cause changes that are of a sufficient scale to change ecosystem services provision, particularly in terms of fisheries and biodiversity and, via trophic linkages, change the distribution of fish, birds and mammals. The production of DRIPy data should be eliminated and the resources used instead to address relevant questions that are logically bounded in time and space. Efforts should target identifying metrics of change that can be linked to ecosystem function or service provision, particularly where those metrics show strongly non-linear effects in relation to the stressor. Future monitoring should also be designed to contribute towards predictive ecosystem models and be sufficiently robust and understandable to facilitate transparent, auditable and timely decision-making.
... It facilitated participation from multiple stakeholders involved, and allowed for increased social learning (e.g., buy-in, trust, cooperation) within adaptive management (Jordan et al. 2016;Conallin et al. 2017). Community stakeholders noted that TPCs provided greater flexibility and acceptance of risk in decision-making, thereby increasing adaptability, and overall utility (Addison et al. 2015). ...
... For 2014 and 2015 it allowed all stakeholders to be involved and to make informed decisions before the next watering year. This was achieved by reflecting on the state of the system (past and present) using rigorously collected data against explicit, measurable end-points (TPCs) (Addison et al. 2015). In addition, each year of data collection provided information on the previous actions, leading to an improvement in the understanding and effectiveness of the interventions, while also highlighting whether improvements were needed (McLoughlin and Thoms 2015). ...
Article
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The complex nature of freshwater systems provides challenges for incorporating evidence-based techniques into management. This paper investigates the potential of participatory evidence-based techniques to involve local stakeholders and make decisions based on different “knowledge” sources within adaptive management programs. It focuses on the application of thresholds of potential concern (TPC) within strategic adaptive management (SAM) for facilitating inclusive decision-making. The study is based on the case of the Edward-Wakool (E-W) “Fish and Flows” SAM project in the Murray–Darling River Basin, Australia. We demonstrate the application of TPCs for improving collaborative decision-making within the E-W, associated with environmental watering requirements, and other natural resource management programs such as fish stocking. The development of TPCs in the E-W fish and flows SAM project helped improve stakeholder involvement and understanding of the system, and also the effectiveness of the implemented management interventions. TPCs ultimately helped inform environmental flow management activities. The TPC process complemented monitoring that was already occurring in the system and provided a mechanism for linking formal and informal knowledge to form explicit and measurable endpoints from objectives. The TPC process faced challenges due to the perceived reduction in scientific rigor within initial TPC development and use. However, TPCs must remain tangible to managers and other stakeholders, in order to aid in the implementation of adaptive management. Once accepted by stakeholders, over time TPCs should be reviewed and refined in order to increase their scientific rigor, as new information is generated.
... In addition, it may be unclear how population model forecasts should be presented in order to be useful to decision makers. Decision makers need to balance the potential impacts on the populations of sensitive species (environmental cost) with the socio-economic benefits (Addison et al., 2015;Johnson, 2013). Three kinds of thresholds can be distinguished: ecological, utility, and decision thresholds (Martin et al., 2009). ...
... By contrast, participatory approaches include stakeholders to assess trade-offs in socio-economic and environmental objectives, using e.g. scenario planning (Addison et al., 2015). Such approaches are generally qualitative in nature, but can also include numerical and/or spatial components. ...
Article
The expansion of wind energy poses challenges to policy-and decision-makers to address conflicts with wildlife. Conflicts are associated with impacts of existing and planned projects on wildlife, and associated difficulties of prediction where impacts are subject to considerable uncertainty. Many post-construction studies have demonstrated adverse effects on individuals of various bird and bat species. These effects may come in the form of collision-induced mortality or behavioral or physiological changes reducing the fitness of individuals exposed to wind energy facilities. Upscaling these individual effects to population impacts provides information on the true value of interest from a conservation point of view. This paper identifies methodological issues associated when moving from individual effects to population impacts in the context of wind energy. Distinct methodological approaches to predict population impacts are described using published case studies. The various choices of study design and metrics available to detect significant changes at the population level are further assessed based on these. Ways to derive impact thresholds relevant for decision-making are discussed in detail. Robust monitoring schemes and sophisticated modelling techniques may inevitably be unable to describe the whole complexity of wind and wildlife interactions and the natural variability of animal populations. Still, they will provide an improved understanding of the response of wildlife to wind energy and better-informed policies to support risk-based decision-making. Policies that support the use of adaptive management will promote assessments at the population level. Providing information to adequately balance the development of wind energy with the persistence of wildlife populations.
... Scenarios can be used to predict the future (predictive scenarios, focusing on probable outcomes), while they can also be used to imagine the future based on the normative preferences of the scenario-builders (in which case the scenarios allow to sketch a picture of what a desirable future would be) (Börjeson et al., 2006). In the absence of empirical evidence, expert judgement can be used to assess the probability and desirability of change trajectories and adapted management alternatives (Addison et al., 2015). The rigorous use of expert knowledge requires a match between the management and research questions at hand and the knowledge traits of the experts, which can range from a local focus to a global outlook (Drescher et al., 2013). ...
Article
Tropical coastal systems are undergoing rapid change, which impacts people and natural resources, and that requires innovative governance processes to be turned into an opportunity for sustainable management. Focusing on Unguja, the main island of the Zanzibar archipelago in Tanzania, this study explores the current state of the island's coastal systems, as well as probable and desirable scenarios for the future. Based on a two-round iterative Delphi survey aimed at coastal science & management experts, research priorities are identified, and explorative scenarios are proposed. The findings indicate that demographic pressure is expected to have a high impact, and that competing coastal land use claims balancing between tourism infrastructure development and local fisheries-related land are to be expected. Sustainable alternative livelihood strategies are however expected to be part of the solution, for a resilient coastal system, if inclusive governance and management strategies are put in place, e.g. regarding access to coastal resources. This study combines the predictive and normative components of explorative scenarios and its approach and findings can be inspiring in the whole Western Indian Ocean region, beyond the Zanzibar case study.
... Systems behaviour charts and decision triggers offer conservation leaders new insights into the behaviour of a system and allow them to monitor specific thresholds that prompt them to act if the system enters an undesirable state (Black, 2015;Cook, de Bie, Keith, & Addison, 2016). Limits can be set for observable trends in order to detect declines in otherwise stable endangered species populations, and these methods have already been implemented in several countries (Addison, de Bie, & Rumpff, 2015;Timko & Innes, 2009). Such methods allow conservation leaders and project managers to focus their attentions elsewhere while reducing management operations or dedicated resource (Cook et al., 2016). ...
Article
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Conservation projects have limited resources and an ever expanding to-do list, presenting a significant leadership challenge. Mid-term evaluations can be informative tools to check how short term activities and resources are achieving long term conservation outcomes. This research study involved a programme evaluation of a successful species recovery project in Mauritius, using a systems-thinking approach to conservation management, and utilising a Theory of Change to assess the effectiveness of short term activities on long term impacts. This systematic method of evaluation gave greater clarity on resource planning, performance indicators and supporting processes, with observations that could be incorporated into ongoing plans. Such an approach could be used by funding organisations or by local management teams to review project performance without the need for a comparator, extensive benchmark data, nor a prescriptive management standards framework.
... scenarios of climate change and management options for coral decline in the Great Barrier Reef (Ban et al. 2015) . Four scenarios modelled to estimate management thresholds for an intertidal reef affected by trampling in Victoria (Addison, Bie, and Rumpff 2015) the survey were compiled and analysed as described by Boone and Boone (2012). This study adheres to the ethical guidelines of the University of Queensland, Australia and the authors have agreed not to disclose participants' names, positions and the location of sites. ...
Article
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Marine protected areas (MPAs) are an important marine conservation strategy; however, managing MPAs is challenging due to threats such as coastal development, non-compliance and recreational pressures. We conducted semi-structured interviews with MPA managers and rangers in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria to discuss the opportunity to apply models to support management decision-making in MPAs. The utilisation of models for risk analyses, social learning and forecasting was considered of high relevance for decision makers. However, the utility of a tool depends on the nature of the management problem at hand. For instance, conceptual models can bring a systems perspective to management whereas probabilistic models may indicate the likelihood of a management outcome. We recommend selecting a tool based on decision support requirements. Furthermore, participating MPA managers recommended the need to collaborate with scientists to develop and apply decision support tools to address routine as well as complex management issues in protected areas.
... Therefore, while our study reveals the value of evaluating a more nuanced set of progress indicators, it also reveals the need to fill critical gaps in our ability to assess the strength of marine protection. Future research should also consider the social and political factors that may influence the capacity to strengthen existing MPA networks, particularly given evidence that governments are not prioritising management of MPAs (Addison et al., 2015). Nevertheless, our findings reveal that assessing both individual and network-wide metrics of effective MPAs can reveal simple changes (e.g., increasing the level and equity of protection) to existing MPAs and strategic expansion of MPAs (e.g., within heavily exploited environments; Halpern et al., 2015; Klein et al., 2015) that could significantly strength of the network. ...
Article
Marine protected areas (MPAs) have proven to be a valuable tool for both promoting the sustainable use of marine resources and long-term biodiversity conservation outcomes. Targets for marine protection under the Convention on Biological Diversity have seen rapid growth in MPAs globally, with progress judged using targets for total area protected rather than evaluating growth based on the capacity to protect biodiversity. The value of a MPA network to biodiversity conservation depends on a range of attributes of both individual MPAs and portfolios of MPAs, which are not captured by simple area-based targets. Therefore, a clear and efficient set of metrics are needed to effectively evaluate progress towards building MPA networks, considering the representation and adequacy of protection for biodiversity. We developed a universally applicable set of metrics that can evaluate network structure in relation to its capacity to conserve marine biodiversity. These metrics combine properties of effective individual MPAs with metrics for their capacity to function collectively as a network. To demonstrate the value of these metrics, we apply them to the Australian MPA network, the largest in the world. Collectively, the indicators suggest that while Australia has made significant progress in building a representative and well-structured MPA network, the level of protection offered to marine biodiversity is generally low, with insufficient coverage of no-take MPAs across many bioregions. The metrics reveal how the current value of the MPA network could be greatly increased by reducing the prevalence of multi-use zones that allow extractive activities known to negatively impact biodiversity.
... The SAM framework facilitated involvement of all stakeholders and enabled them to make informed decisions for the next watering year, with a key focus on learning together (McLoughlin and Thoms 2015;Mott Lacroix et al. 2016;Stirzaker et al. 2011). The development of the TPCs allowed community and manager stakeholders to collaborate in the analysis of the data collected through the scientific monitoring program in order to evaluate the state of the system using data against set targets for the desired future state of the system (Addison et al. 2015;Baumgartner et al. 2014). The stakeholders were then able to make informed recommendations on what they perceived to be the most effective management interventions for the coming watering year, important for collaborative decision making (Bennett 2016;Conallin et al. 2017;McClanahan and Abunge 2016). ...
Article
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Freshwater resource management is becoming increasingly complex as human pressure increases on available water resources, and as more participatory transparent decision-making frameworks are being advocated within water management. Complexity is further increased when environmental flow programs are integrated into existing water management programs. Adaptive management frameworks present an obvious choice for integration and implementation of environmental flows, but have so far failed to become the dominant framework. The research presented here highlights the ability of a strategic adaptive management (SAM) approach within an environmental flow program in the Murray Darling Basin of Australia to facilitate planning and implementation of environmental flows. The SAM approach did show that adaptive management can deal with the complexities of designing and implementing environmental flows within complex social-ecological systems, but can have limitations in the long-term. The approach highlighted the importance of social processes within adaptive management, emphasizing that a focus on inclusiveness, commitment, and transparency aimed at building understanding, trust, and ownership are key processes for implementation. In this specific case study, successful implementation was achieved through structured co-design of initial programs and participatory decision-making throughout. However, the SAM approach also showed that adaptive management is vulnerable to challenges in the long-term when resources and expertize change.
... A threshold is a value that if exceeded would trigger management intervention or further investigation. In some instances, a management threshold might be a fixed value, such as a water quality standard (ANZECC, 2001) or presented as a range of values called quantitative condition categories (Addison et al., 2015b). In other situations, a threshold can be defined in terms of a level of change or a mean difference, say between impact and control sites, which would be of management concern. ...
Article
There is an increasing demand that managers of marine parks quantitatively demonstrate the achievement of their conservation goals. Monitoring is one tool that can help with this. One component of monitoring that is challenging for managers is the statistical treatment of monitoring data. Commonly used approaches, such as null hypothesis tests, are conceptually challenging and operationally complex, potentially leading to wrong conclusions and poor decisions. A more straightforward approach is parameter estimation with confidence intervals. Parameter estimation focuses on estimating the size of change or difference (an 'effect size') in a response variable and comparing this with a pre-defined effect size called a management threshold. Confidence intervals indicate the level of precision in estimates of change, which make for more balanced conclusions. Parameter estimation is also conducive to graphing, which can facilitate interpretation and communication to non-scientists. In this paper, I demonstrate three examples of parameter estimation and discuss their relative strengths and weaknesses. By presenting these examples, I hope to encourage managers to adopt statistical approaches that allow them to quantify environmental change in a way that will contribute to defensible conclusions, facilitate timely decision making and be understood by stakeholders.
... A range of studies about the integration of Geographic Information Science (GIS), Remote Sensing (RS), and geo-analysis models have been conducted in various disciplines, such as terrain analysis (Xie, Pearlstine, and Gawlik 2012;Deng et al. 2017), land use modeling (Rodrigues 2016;Omrani, Tayyebi, Pijanowski 2017and Zhai et al. 2018, water resource analysis (Chen et al. 2014), and GIS-based decision-making research (Nascimento et al. 2017;Cenci et al. 2018;Eisman, Gebelein, and Breslin 2017). Among the efforts in IEM and related research, participatory modeling is an important approach for addressing the dynamic complexities of geo-problems (Voinov and Gaddis 2008;Langsdale et al. 2009;Addison, Bie, and Rumpff 2015;Paolisso and Trombley 2017). ...
Article
Participatory modeling is an important approach for solving complex geo-problems from a comprehensive and holistic viewpoint, and it brings together stakeholders from multiple disciplines to provide diverse resources, including modeling, data fields and computational assets. Data configuration work (e.g., preparing appropriate input data for model execution, connecting a model's output to the input data of another model) is important for constructing and executing a participatory modeling task. Most current data configuration methods depend on the model integration logic, which presents a challenge when adding new modeling resources into a model to dynamically create and execute new modeling tasks. To support the construction of participatory modeling tasks in a web environment, this article proposes a loosely integrated data configuration strategy for decoupling data configuration work from the execution process of a participatory modeling task. A model service controller is designed for model input/output (I/O) configuration, and a data service controller is designed for data access configuration. These two controllers can help modelers link the data I/O demands of a model-service with the appropriate data-services; thus, different modeling instances can be dynamically joined to a participatory modeling task and executed without reconstructing the original data configuration settings. A prototype participatory modeling system is proposed to demonstrate the flexibility and feasibility of the proposed method using an experimental modeling case. The results show that the proposed data configuration strategy supports the integration of different model-services based on the data dependency relationships and that the complexity and difficulty in configuring data for a participatory modeling tasks in the web environment are minimized.
... The flexible nature, ability to account for improbable outcomes, and input from decision makers and stakeholders make the scenario planning process uniquely suited for environmentally focused planning efforts [1]. For example, precedent has been set in the use of scenarios for guiding land use change models [3,6], species distribution models [7], climate change [8], impacts to biodiversity [9], management strategies for the protection of intertidal reefs [10], freshwater governance [11], and the future of ecosystem services at both local [12] and global scales [13]. The involvement of experts and decision makers in the devel-1. ...
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This case study describes the application of a framework for developing stakeholder-driven scenarios of the future. The purpose of these scenarios is to inform land use planning toward the protection of ecosystems and derivable ecosystem services in Northwestern Virginia. We held two scenario development workshops with regional experts in conservation, agriculture, land use planning, policy, and economic development to create scenarios of land use in the northern Piedmont and northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. We structured the workshops around a framework that guided stakeholders through several steps eventually resulting in four unique scenarios describing the region in 50 years. Scenario narratives were defined by the intersection of highly influential and uncertain drivers of change relevant to land use planning and ecosystem services. Participants from the northern Shenandoah Valley region selected population growth and climate change adaptation as their scenario defining drivers, while participants from the northern Piedmont region selected planning strategy and climate change impact as their scenario defining drivers. Participants fleshed out scenarios into descriptive narratives that incorporated qualitative and quantitative measures of change. Details from the scenario narratives informed land use change models to further quantify tradeoffs between land use planning decisions and ecosystem services. Individuals interested in using scenario planning to guide research efforts, conservation, or land use planning, or even to broaden perspectives on how to view the future, will find value in this case study.
... When juggling competing objectives, participatory methods are often important as value judgements are necessary (Punt et al. 2016). Integrating modelling scenarios and participation has proved successful for setting meaningful thresholds to trigger management intervention in marine systems (Addison et al. 2015). Without undertaking these processes, discussion and management will continue to be siloed and indicators remain poorly interpreted, as science alone cannot make such trade-offs. ...
Thesis
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The design, selection and use of indicators for large-scale conservation policy has been of great interest since the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) committed to a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. Following the introduction of the 2020 Aichi Targets, there was an increase, not only in demand for numbers of indicators, but the requirements that they are expected to meet. The complexities of social-ecological systems and the inevitable trade-offs that exist within them mean understanding and validating indicator responses are critical if they are to play a role in active management. In this thesis, I look critically at uncertainties around how indicators are constructed and used, through the lens of marine science and conservation. I start the thesis by exploring the different types of uncertainty found when using composite indicators and from reviewing the literature, suggest possible methods of dealing with them. I find that structural uncertainties of indicators are rarely acknowledged. As a case study of application of composite indicators, I developed an Ocean Health Index assessment for the Arctic Ocean, demonstrating how a structured framework can be of great use for taking a data-driven approach to assessing social-ecological systems in large, data-poor regions. I show the Arctic is sustainably delivering a range of benefits to people, but with room for improvement in all areas, particularly tourism, fisheries, and protected places. Successful management of biological resources and short-term positive impacts on biodiversity in response to climate change underlie these high goal scores. I then explore how two biodiversity indicators (Living Planet Index and Norway Nature Index) can be better interpreted and validated using an end-to-end ecosystem model, Atlantis, in the Nordic and Barents Seas. By simulating different fishing scenarios, I evaluated the extent to which the model-based testing approach gave insights into indicator behaviour; while the LPI is able to distinguish clearly between three different fishing scenarios, the NNI is only able to distinguish the most heavily fished scenario from the other two. I discuss how this approach is useful for indicator testing and to advance integration of large-scale biodiversity indicators with goal-setting and decision making at the system scale. I then use the model to explore how different indicators of biodiversity from across fisheries and conservation respond to management interventions in Norway in the face of climate change. I find that despite having the same intentions, fisheries and conservation biodiversity indicators respond differently to each other under the same scenarios, due to how they are constructed. This means that without proper validation, indicators can potentially give different pictures of the same system to different interest groups, meaning greater integration and understanding of conservation and fisheries management objectives is necessary. Finally, I reflect on the findings of my thesis in light of the CBD Post-2020 Framework. I discuss several core areas where the process could be revised to improve biodiversity outcomes. This includes formulating a robust theory of change to give the framework a clear conceptual basis and explicitly articulate the causal assumptions about the relationship between actions and outcomes. I do not focus on what targets should look like, but instead seek proactive, solutions-oriented approaches that can help ‘bend the curve’ for biodiversity. This thesis highlights the uncertainties and challenges associated with large-scale indicator design and use and demonstrates how countries can take steps to reduce these. Greater consideration of the systems within which indicators are based can lead to better validation and ultimately better decision making.
... They found that the assessments were not completely tangible for stakeholders and suggest that more concrete evidence of innovative cropping systems might be needed, for example through field trials. As an example from water management, Addison et al. (2015) combine various methods in a participatory process, in particular conceptual modeling and the calculation of MCDA, to set conservation management thresholds for a marine national park in Victoria, Australia. They found it as an accessible and effective approach to deal with competing objectives and value judgements, while drawing upon scientific understanding of the system. ...
Article
Participatory modeling – the involvement of stakeholders in the modeling process – can support various objectives, such as stimulating learning processes or promoting mutual understanding of stakeholders. Participatory modeling approaches could therefore be useful for the governance of transitions, but a systematic account of potential application areas of participatory modeling methods in transition governance is still lacking. This article addresses this gap by providing a review of participatory modeling methods and linking them to phases and objectives of transition governance. We reviewed participatory modeling studies in transition research and related fields of social-ecological modeling, integrated assessment and environmental management. We find that participatory modeling methods are mostly used for participatory visioning and goal setting as well as for interactive strategy development. The review shows the potential for extending the application of participatory modeling methods to additional phases of transition governance and for the exchange of experiences between research fields.
... The area prioritized under each scenario is a function of the geographic size of each conservation feature, and the bottleneck scenario will have the smallest spatial footprint. We acknowledge concerns regarding the setting of arbitrary representation targets (Carwardine et al., 2009), and welcome research into more realistic targets (Addison et al., 2015). In the absence of data to inform target selection and for the purposes of a comparative analysis, we set representation targets at 30% for each conservation feature, that is, aiming to protect 30% of each species' distribution according to the scenarios above. ...
Article
Species' distributions are generally treated as static for the purposes of prioritization, but many species such as migrants and nomads have distributions that shift over time. Decisions about priority actions for such species must account for this temporal variation, making planning for their conservation a complex problem. Here, we explore how dynamic distributions can be incorporated into a spatial prioritization, and suggest approaches for prioritizing conservation action when knowledge of species' movements is uncertain.
... In ecosystems that tend to be fragile, management intervention is required to address or prevent undesirable changes (Addison et al. 2015). Establishing protected areas (PAs) is commonly considered a key strategy for natural resource, biodiversity and landscape conservation, typically in the form of a park or reserve (e.g. ...
Chapter
This chapter aims to contribute to the knowledge on participatory planning (PP) in the protected area (PA) management focusing on areas whose sustainability is significantly affected by excessive tourism activity. The existing literature has shown PP to be both crucial for successful PA management as well as one of the weaker links in current PA management processes. However, the analysis of PPs key features and their implementation in the PAs are not adequately covered in the literature. Thus, this chapter analyses the role and critical elements of successful PP process in PA using the case studies of two Croatian national parks (NP) that have been under significant visitor pressure over the past years (pre-COVID-19). Based on several criteria devised through a critical review of PP literature, an assessment of PP models in two NP is performed, and critical points requiring improvements identified.
... Integrating indicators (ecological, economic, or social) into management planning (e.g., ecosystem service indicators; Qu and Lu 2018) can provide a means to select the best sites or times for management actions that assist practitioners in meeting their objectives. Indeed, defining management thresholds and associated triggers for action a priori for indicators rather than reacting to unexpected ecosystem changes is likely to be a more proactive and effective approach to management (Addison et al. 2015). For decision triggers to be effective, there must be a commitment to ongoing monitoring of relevant and practical indicators (de Bie et al. 2018). ...
Article
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Urban areas are hubs for invasive alien (non-native) species (IAS) which can cause major problems in and around urban areas. Urban conservation practitioners face complex decisions about which IAS require management, where and when these management interventions are necessary, and how to implement them effectively. While researchers increasingly advocate the assignment of critical thresholds informing IAS management decisions, little attention has been given to the development of criteria for such thresholds or related practical application protocols in the context of urban environmental management. We review approaches that have been applied to manage IAS in urban areas and evaluate which thresholds are considered and applied before, during, and after management actions. Our literature search revealed 75 publications, with clear geographic bias. Less than half of all studies had implications for the prioritization of IAS management in urban areas and only 31% of these directly assessed such priorities. Only 8% of studies referenced a threshold or decision trigger when proposing management approaches for IAS in urban areas. This suggests that decisions to manage IAS in urban areas are often made on an ad hoc basis, without considering objective and transparent criteria, and/or are prompted by external factors (such as funding availability) that are not recorded in the formal literature. There is a need for IAS management in urban areas to be evidence-based and informed by well-tested measures and transparent decision triggers. Resources should be directed towards integrating evidence-based thresholds and tailored prioritization schemes into urban management frameworks to support decisions about what, where, and when IAS management is required.
... The ammonia emissions provided by the livestock were also calculated. In agreement with other studies [7,22], the emission factor 17/14 was adopted to estimate the NH 3 amount pertinent to each farm. ...
Article
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Life cycle assessment (LCA) was performed in dairy buffalo farms representative of Southern Italian farming systems, similar due to several characteristics, with the exception of wheat production. This work evaluated the impacts derived from this management choice, comparing farms with wheat crop (WWC) or not (NWC). In agreement with the literature, economic allocation was chosen as a useful strategy to attribute equivalents to by-products, i.e., culled animals; the same criterion was also adopted to assign pollutants to wheat grain, limited to WWC farms. Environmental impacts in terms of Global Warming Potential (GWP, kg CO2 eq), Acidification Potential (AC, g SO2 eq), Eutrophication Potential (EU, g PO43-eq), Agricultural Land Occupation (ALO, m2y) and Water Depletion (WD, m3) were estimated. The production of wheat crop significantly affected (p < 0.05) the Agricultural Land Occupation (ALO) category as WWC farms need adequate land. WWC farms could allow a significant reduction in eutrophication (EU) compared to NWC farms (p < 0.05).
... Setting ecological thresholds in marine management is becoming more commonplace, as models for using these performance-based measures and technologies for collecting and analysing extensive data are increasingly within reach to planners and managers (Blau and Green, 2015;Foley et al., 2015). A more data-intensive and rationalized system is described in Addison et al. (2015), which uses models for establishing thresholdswarning signs that suggest that specific aspects of multiple use management need to be amended. ...
Article
The use of targets to provide measurable objectives and benchmarks for management, conservation, and restoration of ecosystems is commonplace. In the marine and coastal realms, targets have been successful in setting sustainable limits to fisheries harvests, thresholds for pollutants, and recommended amounts of representative habitat included in marine protected area (MPA) networks. Quantifiable targets can dissuade governments from making dubious claims about investments in ocean protection that sound impressive but cannot be verified. Examples are presented where protection targets have been used successfully for marine management, and instances where measurable and meaningful benchmarks serve to allow tracking of true progress. However, the setting of targets can also be a double-edged sword. In some cases, targets have proven useful, but in many instances, interventions made to fulfil targets not only give a false illusion of progress or even success, they present opportunity costs that impede further conservation. Some of these issues were raised in the 2003 article ‘Dangerous Targets?: Unresolved issues and ideological clashes around marine protected areas’ that appeared in Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. Since its publication, the article's warnings about how targets can sometimes be dangerous and counter-productive have led to intense debate among scientists and policy-makers alike, and the paper has been cited in more than 500 publications. Yet today, more than a dozen years after the first ‘Dangerous Targets' publication, new targets are driving more MPA designations and conservation strategies than ever before, and the ‘dangerous’ aspects of target setting have been largely ignored. This paper discusses old ‘dangers' in the context of new developments in marine conservation, including the lingering problem of having simplistic metrics drive marine policies, and the unintended result that can often occur when outputs (percentage of area under MPA designation) do not align with true outcomes of effective management and conservation. Newly emerging ‘dangers’ in letting areal targets (percentage of area under MPA designation) drive MPA designations are also discussed, including how the rush to fulfil obligations to protect a certain proportion of area is taking place in planning, separate from broader level, and potentially more holistic, marine spatial planning (MSP). The paper suggests five recommendations that would allow policy-makers to use targets more effectively, including: (1) increase transparency in planning, especially around specific goals and objectives of MPA establishment; (2) use time-based areal targets when representativity is a goal of the protected area strategy; (3) use MPAs when spatial protections are the best solution to the management challenge; (4) design MPAs with intrinsic performance goals, and use performance-based metrics in subsequent evaluation of MPAs; and (5) embed MPA planning into broader policy frameworks, including MSP. These five recommendations are oriented toward multilateral institutions, governments, and non-governmental organizations, suggesting concrete ways to utilize target-setting to their best advantage, in order to fight the downward spiral of degradation affecting marine and coastal environments worldwide. Copyright
Article
Performance thresholds are an important tool for determining successful conservation outcomes. They provide an objective means of defining good ecological condition and demonstrating whether that condition has been achieved. However, to demonstrate successful conservation outcomes, thresholds must be well formulated and clearly defined. The IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas (the Green List) Standard was established to provide a benchmark representing best‐practice in protected area (PA) management, and requires PAs to set performance thresholds to demonstrate that key ecological values are being conserved. With a growing number of PAs attaining Green List status globally, performance thresholds have now been developed for a wide range of natural values and contexts. These thresholds present an excellent resource with which to identify the attributes of well‐defined performance thresholds. We assessed 349 thresholds associated with PAs on the Green List using established criteria for setting well‐defined targets. We identified six different ways thresholds were expressed, with examples of good practice across the spectrum of thresholds, enabling us to develop a checklist of the information required for specific and measurable condition thresholds. Importantly, we found that many performance thresholds were expressed as management objectives (the goal of management), rather than condition thresholds (good ecological condition), although this trend has improved over time. We also found that around half of the performance thresholds lacked the necessary specificity to objectively delineate successful outcomes. Our analysis enabled us to provide recommendations for setting robust performance thresholds that constitute ecological condition thresholds, independent of associated management objectives and estimates of current condition, across a wide range of conservation settings. These recommendations will not only assist those seeking to apply the Green List Standard, but all PAs seeking to understand whether management practices are achieving successful conservation outcomes. Article Impact Statement: Performance thresholds must be specific and measurable to objectively demonstrate when successful conservation outcomes have been achieved. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved
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Performance weighted aggregation of expert judgments, using calibration questions, has been advocated to improve pooled quantitative judgments for ecological questions. However, there is little discussion or practical advice in the ecological literature regarding the application, advantages or challenges of performance weighting. In this paper we 1) illustrate how the IDEA protocol with four‐step question format can be extended to include performance weighted aggregation from the Classical Model, and 2) explore the extent to which this extension improves pooled judgments for a range of performance measures. Our case study demonstrates that performance weights can improve judgments derived from the IDEA protocol with four‐step question format. However, there is no a‐priori guarantee of improvement. We conclude that the merits of the method lie in demonstrating that the final aggregation of judgments provides the best representation of uncertainty (i.e. validation), whether that be via equally weighted or performance weighted aggregation. Whether the time and effort entailed in performance weights can be justified is a matter for decision‐makers. Our case study outlines the rationale, challenges, and benefits of performance weighted aggregations. It will help to inform decisions about the deployment of performance weighting and avoid common pitfalls in its application.
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In this study, the life cycle assessment (LCA) principle was performed to estimate the environmental impact of three dairy farms that operate using different farming systems, namely, conventional (CON), organic (ORG), and high-quality (HQ) modes. In Italy, the typical style of high-quality (HQ) farming is commonly included in the conventional system but is more strictly regulated by the Decree of the Italian Ministry of Health N° 185/1991. Although the farms are not fully representative of each conduct, they showed intrinsic peculiarities, e.g., the cow-culling rate of each system. This rate requires a quantification as it may be related to loss of income. Allocation criteria were applied to attribute the quantities of pollutants to the co-products: wheat, involved in the congruence and number of cows culled, the latter being undesirable and therefore necessary to quantify. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) highlighted that the no-dairy products significantly mitigated (p < 0.05) some of the impacts’ categories. The allocation of culled cows decreased the impacts of the CON and particularly those of the ORG farms when the mass mode was adopted. HQ showed values similar to the results without allocation. Overall, the objective of identifying a “marker” of undesirable products, estimated by the culling rate, was partially achieved.
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Decision-making for conservation management often involves evaluating risks in the face of environmental uncertainty. Models support decision-making by (1) synthesizing available knowledge in a systematic, rational and transparent way and (2) providing a platform for exploring and resolving uncertainty about the consequences of management decisions. Despite their benefits, models are still not used in many conservation decision-making contexts. In this article, we provide evidence of common objections to the use of models in environmental decision-making. In response, we present a series of practical solutions for modellers to help improve the effectiveness and relevance of their work in conservation decision-making. Global review. We reviewed scientific and grey literature for evidence of common objections to the use of models in conservation decision-making. We present a set of practical solutions based on theory, empirical evidence and best-practice examples to help modellers substantively address these objections. We recommend using a structured decision-making framework to guide good modelling practice in decision-making and highlight a variety of modelling techniques that can be used to support the process. We emphasize the importance of participatory decision-making to improve the knowledge-base and social acceptance of decisions and to facilitate better conservation outcomes. Improving communication and building trust are key to successfully engaging participants, and we suggest some practical solutions to help modellers develop these skills. If implemented, we believe these practical solutions could help broaden the use of models, forging deeper and more appropriate linkages between science and management for the improvement of conservation decision-making.
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Even unmanaged ecosystems are characterized by combinations of stability and instability and by unexpected shifts in behavior from both internal and external causes. That is even more true of ecosystems managed for the production of food or fiber. Data are sparse, knowledge of processes limited, and the act of management changes the system being managed. Surprise and change is inevitable. Here we review methods to develop, screen, and evaluate alternatives in a process where management itself becomes partner with science by designing probes that produce updated understanding as well as economic product.
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Most conservation challenges are complex and possess all the characteristics of so called “wicked” problems. Despite widespread recognition of this complexity conservationists possess a legacy of institutional structures, tools and practices better suited to simpler systems. We highlight two specific challenges posed by this mismatch: the difficulty of adaptive management where success is ambiguous, and the tension between “best practice” and creativity. Drawing on research in other disciplines (including psychology, information systems, business management, and military strategy) we suggest practices that conservation could consider to better respond to complexity. These practices include, defining clear objectives, the use of scenarios, emphasis on pattern analysis, and ensuring greater scope for creative and decentralized decision making. To help illustrate these challenges and solutions, we point to parallels between conservation and military operations.
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Many different methods of synthesizing and analyzing environmental monitoring data exist. Given the diversity of current environmental monitoring projects, and the large number of scientists and policy-makers involved, there is a critical need for a universal format that both summarizes data sets and indicates any potential need for management action. Control charts, originally developed for industrial applications, represent one way of doing this. Control charts indicate when a system is going ‘out of control’ by plotting through time some measure of a stochastic process with reference to its expected value. Control charts can be constructed for many different types of indicators, whether univariate or multivariate. Control charts are simple to interpret, and can easily be updated whenever additional data become available. The relative risks of Type I (i.e., concluding meaningful change has occurred when actually it has not) and Type II (i.e., concluding meaningful change has not occurred when in fact it has) errors are intuitive and easily adjusted, and one may define a threshold for action at any desired level. Control charts may often be more informative than traditional statistical analyses such as regressions or parameter estimation with confidence intervals. The primary challenge in most situations will be determining a stable or baseline state for the ecological indicator in question.
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We developed components of a decision structure that could be used in an adaptive management framework for responding to invasion of hemlock woolly adelgid Adeleges tsugae on the Cumberland Plateau of northern Tennessee. Hemlock woolly adelgid, an invasive forest pest, was first detected in this area in 2007. We used a structured decision-making process to identify and refine the management problem, objectives, and alternative management actions, and to assess consequences and tradeoffs among selected management alternatives. We identified four fundamental objectives: 1) conserve the aquatic and terrestrial riparian conservation targets, 2) protect and preserve hemlock, 3) develop and maintain adequate budget, and 4) address public concerns. We designed two prototype responses using an iterative process. By rapidly prototyping a first solution, insights were gained and shortcomings were identified, and some of these shortcomings were incorporated and corrected in the second prototype. We found that objectives were best met when management focused on early treatment of lightly to moderately infested but relatively healthy hemlock stands with biological control agent predator beetles and insect-killing fungi. Also, depending on the cost constraint, early treatment should be coupled with silvicultural management of moderately to severely infested and declining hemlock stands to accelerate conversion to nonhemlock mature forest cover. The two most valuable contributions of the structured decision-making process were 1) clarification and expansion of our objectives, and 2) application of tools to assess tradeoffs and predict consequences of alternative actions. Predicting consequences allowed us to evaluate the influence of uncertainty on the decision. For example, we found that the expected number of mature forest stands over 30 y would be increased by 4% by resolving the uncertainty regarding predator beetle effectiveness. The adaptive management framework requires further development including identifying and evaluating uncertainty, formalizing other competing predictive models, designing a monitoring program to update the predictive models, developing a process for re-evaluating the predictive models and incorporating new management technologies, and generating support for planning and implementation.
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Core to the planning–implementation gap in conservation is the failure to achieve the necessary shared vision and collaboration among typically diverse stakeholder groups to translate conservation assessments and plans into sustained on-ground outcomes for conservation. We suggest that a process of describing and sharing mental models—the cognitive frameworks that people use to interpret and understand the world—provides promising and as yet underutilized techniques for conservation planners to improve implementation success. The processes and techniques associated with the mental models concept have been applied in a variety of fields including business and organization science, risk analysis, education, natural resource management, and climate change adaptation. Our review of mental models illustrates that their application can strengthen the success of conservation planning by: (1) contributing to clear and open communication between stakeholders; (2) aiding in overcoming obstacles to incorporating multiple sources of knowledge; (3) enabling shared ownership of a conservation plan; and (4) improving social assessments. Techniques to explicitly communicate mental models can contribute to each phase of a conservation planning process—assessment, planning, management, and review. Conservation planners have much to gain by eliciting and sharing mental models in conservation planning processes.
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Environmental management decisions are prone to expensive mistakes if they are triggered by hypothesis tests using the conventional Type I error rate ( ) of 0.05. We derive optimal -levels for decision-making by minimizing a cost function that specifies the overall cost of monitoring and management. When managing an economically valuable koala population, it shows that a decision based on = 0.05 carries an expected cost over $5 million greater than the optimal decision. For a species of such value, there is never any benefit in guarding against the spurious detection of declines and therefore management should proceed directly to recovery action. This result holds in most circumstances where the species' value substantially exceeds its recovery costs. For species of lower economic value, we show that the conventional -level of 0.05 rarely approximates the optimal decision-making threshold. This analysis supports calls for reversing the statistical 'burden of proof' in environmental decision-making when the cost of Type II errors is relatively high.
Book
This book outlines the creative process of making environmental management decisions using the approach called Structured Decision Making. It is a short introductory guide to this popular form of decision making and is aimed at environmental managers and scientists. This is a distinctly pragmatic label given to ways for helping individuals and groups think through tough multidimensional choices characterized by uncertain science, diverse stakeholders, and difficult tradeoffs. This is the everyday reality of environmental management, yet many important decisions currently are made on an ad hoc basis that lacks a solid value-based foundation, ignores key information, and results in selection of an inferior alternative. Making progress - in a way that is rigorous, inclusive, defensible and transparent - requires combining analytical methods drawn from the decision sciences and applied ecology with deliberative insights from cognitive psychology, facilitation and negotiation. The authors review key methods and discuss case-study examples based in their experiences in communities, boardrooms, and stakeholder meetings. The goal of this book is to lay out a compelling guide that will change how you think about making environmental decisions. © 2012 by R. Gregory, L. Failing, M. Harstone, G. Long, T. McDaniels, and D. Ohlson. All rights reserved.
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In this chapter, we discuss the role of objectives and alternative actions in framing a natural resource management decision problem, with particular attention to thresholds. We outline a number of considerations in developing objectives and measurable attributes, including when utility thresholds may be needed to express the decision-makers' values. We also discuss the development of a set of alternative actions, and how these might give rise to decision thresholds, particularly when the predictive models contain ecological thresholds. Framing of a decision problem plays a central role in decision analysis because it helps determine the needs for a predictive ecological model, the type of solution method required, and the value and structure of a monitoring system. © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2014. All rights are reserved.
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Emphasizing the philosophy of uncertainty and the frailties of human psychology when people are confronted with risky situations, this book describes how to conduct a thorough environmental risk assessment. Technical methods are provided to help make assessments more objective and less prone to the biases of those involved in the assessment. Consideration is given to the way in which both subjective beliefs and technical analysis may be used to make better informed decisions.
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This book outlines the creative process of making environmental management decisions using the approach called Structured Decision Making. It is a short introductory guide to this popular form of decision making and is aimed at environmental managers and scientists. This is a distinctly pragmatic label given to ways for helping individuals and groups think through tough multidimensional choices characterized by uncertain science, diverse stakeholders, and difficult tradeoffs. This is the everyday reality of environmental management, yet many important decisions currently are made on an ad hoc basis that lacks a solid value-based foundation, ignores key information, and results in selection of an inferior alternative. Making progress - in a way that is rigorous, inclusive, defensible and transparent - requires combining analytical methods drawn from the decision sciences and applied ecology with deliberative insights from cognitive psychology, facilitation and negotiation. The authors review key methods and discuss case-study examples based in their experiences in communities, boardrooms, and stakeholder meetings. The goal of this book is to lay out a compelling guide that will change how you think about making environmental decisions. Visit www.wiley.com/go/gregory/sdm to access the figures and tables from the book. © 2012 R. Gregory, L. Failing, M. Harstone, G. Long, T. McDaniels, and D. Ohlson.
Article
Management of threatened and endangered species would seem to be a perfect context for adaptive management. Many of the decisions are recurrent and plagued by uncertainty, exactly the conditions that warrant an adaptive approach. But although the potential of adaptive management in these settings has been extolled, there are limited applications in practice. The impediments to practical implementation are manifold and include semantic confusion, institutional inertia, misperceptions about the suitability and utility, and a lack of guiding examples. In this special section of the Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management, we hope to reinvigorate the appropriate application of adaptive management for threatened and endangered species by framing such management in a decision-analytical context, clarifying misperceptions, classifying the types of decisions that might be amenable to an adaptive approach, and providing three fully developed case studies. In this overview paper, I define terms, review the past application of adaptive management, challenge perceived hurdles, and set the stage for the case studies which follow.
Article
Individual footsteps damaged some animals in the SE Australian site, but the percentage of crushed animals was low. Molluscs, except large limpets, were more often dislodged than crushed, and some damage was sustained by barnacles and mussels. Survival of individuals of two gastropod species, Bembicium nanum and Austrocochlea constricta, was not affected by dislodgement, because they quickly righted themselves. The limpet Cellana tramoserica was not damaged by being kicked or stepped on. The dominant plant on these shores, the brown alga Hormosira banksii, was easily damaged, with c20% of the biomass of individual plants being removed by a single footstep. Amount of tissue lost increased with the number of footsteps, with a maximum loss of c75%. The authors investigated the effects of three levels of sustained trampling (33 d of trampling, spread over 4 mo) on organisms in Hormosira Mats, Coralline Algal Mats, and Bare Rock. Hormosira Mats were damaged severely by high- and low-intensity trampling. Upright coralline algae in the Coralline Algal Mat were damaged by high-intensity trampling. Numbers of the gastropod Turbo undulatus in both habitats were reduced. The Bare Rock habitat was not affected significantly by trampling. -from Authors
Article
Conservation monitoring programs are critical for identifying many elements of species ecology and for detecting changes in populations. However, without articulating how monitoring information will trigger relevant conservation actions, programs that monitor species until they become extinct are at odds with the primary goal of conservation: avoiding biodiversity loss. Here, we outline cases in which species were monitored until they suffered local, regional, or global extinction in the absence of a preplanned intervention program, and contend that conservation monitoring programs should be embedded within a management plan and characterized by vital attributes to ensure their effectiveness. These attributes include: (1) explicit articulation of how monitoring information will inform conservation actions, (2) transparent specification of trigger points within monitoring programs at which strategic interventions will be implemented, and (3) rigorous quantification of the ability to achieve early detection of change.
Article
We investigated the ability of an assemblage of animals and plants on rocky shores in southeastern Australia to resist and/or recover from repeated pulse disturbances in the form of trampling. Disturbances of four different intensities were applied experimentally over six summers, with no human access at other times of the year. The dominant intertidal plant, the brown alga Hormosira banksii, was affected by trampling, but the effects were heterogeneous between sites. At two sites, a series of pulse disturbances produced a series of pulse responses, although the effect of a given pulse varied among years, possibly related to the severity of summer desiccating conditions each year. At the third site, pulse disturbances produced a press response; at high levels of trampling, Hormosira was almost eliminated within 2 yr, and at two intermediate levels of trampling, cover was reduced from >90 to 60-70%, where it remained for 4 yr. Effects of trampling showed little small-scale spatial variation. Untrampled areas did fluctuate through time, often as a result of summer burnoff of algae. Natural disturbances occurred irregularly through the study, and their effects varied on very small spatial scales (among plots <30 m apart). Trampling enhanced the densities of a range of herbivorous mollusks, especially limpets, and reduced the abundance of articulated coralline algae, which were abundant in the understory of Hormosira mats. These effects varied among sites but showed much less variation on smaller spatial scales. The reductions in coralline algae may be a direct effect of trampling, but increases in mollusk abundance occurred some time after changes to Hormosira cover, and those changes may be an indirect effect of trampling. We compared the effects of trampling on areas of the shore that had been trampled for two and four summers, to test whether a past history of disturbance influenced the effect of a new disturbance. No significant effects were found on algae or mobile animals, although a mild summer may have made our test of history relatively weak. Hormosira banksii fits the definition of a keystone species or engineer and, as such, is an appropriate focus for management and as an indicator. Spatially heterogeneous effects of a constant physical perturbation, however, mean that management of these rocky shores requires more complex models and indicate that caution should be used in adopting this species as a uniform indicator of environmental change.
Article
Protected area managers often fail to use empirical evidence for their management decisions, yet it is unclear whether this arises from a lack of available data, difficulty in interpreting scientific information for management application, or because managers do not value science for their decisions. To better understand the use of evidence for management decisions, we asked protected area managers in Australia what information is important when making decisions, the types of evidence they find most valuable, and the types of evidence they have for their protected areas. Managers described a complex array of information needed for management decisions, with nine different factors representing decisions about individual management issues and how to prioritize management actions. While managers reported less access to empirical evidence than other sources, this is not because they do not value it, reporting it to be the most valuable source of evidence. Instead, they make up the shortfall in empirical evidence with experience and information synthesized from multiple lines of evidence, which can provide important context for their decisions. We conclude that managers value a diversity of evidence because they face complex conservation decisions. Therefore, while empirical evidence can play an important role, alone this cannot provide all the knowledge managers need.
Article
  Structured decision making and value-of-information analyses can be used to identify robust management strategies even when uncertainty about the response of the system to management is high. We used these methods in a case study of management of the non-native invasive species gray sallow willow (Salix cinerea) in alpine Australia. Establishment of this species is facilitated by wildfire. Managers are charged with developing a management strategy despite extensive uncertainty regarding the frequency of fires, the willow's demography, and the effectiveness of management actions. We worked with managers in Victoria to conduct a formal decision analysis. We used a dynamic model to identify the best management strategy for a range of budgets. We evaluated the robustness of the strategies to uncertainty with value-of-information analyses. Results of the value-of-information analysis indicated that reducing uncertainty would not change which management strategy was identified as the best unless budgets increased substantially. This outcome suggests there would be little value in implementing adaptive management for the problem we analyzed. The value-of-information analyses also highlighted that the main driver of gray sallow willow invasion (i.e., fire frequency) is not necessarily the same factor that is most important for decision making (i.e., willow seed dispersal distance). Value of-information analyses enables managers to better target monitoring and research efforts toward factors critical to making the decision and to assess the need for adaptive management.
Article
In conservation biology it is necessary to make management decisions for endangered and threatened species under severe uncertainty. Failure to acknowledge and treat uncertainty can lead to poor decisions. To illustrate the importance of considering uncertainty, we reanalyze a decision problem for the Sumatran rhino, Dicerorhinus su-matrensis, using information-gap theory to propagate uncertainties and to rank management options. Rather than requiring information about the extent of parameter uncertainty at the outset, information-gap theory addresses the question of how much uncertainty can be tolerated before our decision would change. It assesses the robustness of decisions in the face of severe uncertainty. We show that different management decisions may result when uncertainty in utilities and probabilities are considered in decision-making problems. We highlight the importance of a full assessment of uncertainty in conservation management decisions to avoid, as much as possible, undesirable outcomes.
Article
This paper explores how a structured decision process, based on methods from the decision sciences, can contribute to the integration of local and scientific knowledge in environmental decision making. Emphasis is placed on the use of key decision structuring steps and analytical tools to help ensure the systematic treatment of both fact-based and value-based knowledge claims. Practical methods are discussed for communicating and evaluating values and technical information across participants and cultures in ways that are methodologically rigorous and encourage different sources of credible knowledge to be considered on equal footing. Examples are presented from water use planning in British Columbia, Canada, where stakeholder consultations at 22 hydroelectric facilities demonstrate specific techniques that can be used to clarify values, to explore hypotheses, to clarify uncertainties, to identify and evaluate options, to make value-based choices, and to facilitate mutual learning.
Article
Natural resource management is plagued with uncertainty of many kinds, but not all uncertainties are equally important to resolve. The promise of adaptive management is that learning in the short-term will improve management in the long-term; that promise is best kept if the focus of learning is on those uncertainties that most impede achievement of management objectives. In this context, an existing tool of decision analysis, the expected value of perfect information (EVPI), is particularly valuable in identifying the most important uncertainties. Expert elicitation can be used to develop preliminary predictions of management response under a series of hypotheses, as well as prior weights for those hypotheses, and the EVPI can be used to determine how much management could improve if uncertainty was resolved. These methods were applied to management of whooping cranes (Grus americana), an endangered migratory bird that is being reintroduced in several places in North America. The Eastern Migratory Population of whooping cranes had exhibited almost no successful reproduction through 2009. Several dozen hypotheses can be advanced to explain this failure, and many of them lead to very different management responses. An expert panel articulated the hypotheses, provided prior weights for them, developed potential management strategies, and made predictions about the response of the population to each strategy under each hypothesis. Multi-criteria decision analysis identified a preferred strategy in the face of uncertainty, and analysis of the expected value of information identified how informative each strategy could be. These results provide the foundation for design of an adaptive management program. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Article
Unintended effects of recreational activities in protected areas are of growing concern. We used an adaptive-management framework to develop guidelines for optimally managing hiking activities to maintain desired levels of territory occupancy and reproductive success of Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) in Denali National Park (Alaska, U.S.A.). The management decision was to restrict human access (hikers) to particular nesting territories to reduce disturbance. The management objective was to minimize restrictions on hikers while maintaining reproductive performance of eagles above some specified level. We based our decision analysis on predictive models of site occupancy of eagles developed using a combination of expert opinion and data collected from 93 eagle territories over 20 years. The best predictive model showed that restricting human access to eagle territories had little effect on occupancy dynamics. However, when considering important sources of uncertainty in the models, including environmental stochasticity, imperfect detection of hares on which eagles prey, and model uncertainty, restricting access of territories to hikers improved eagle reproduction substantially. An adaptive management framework such as ours may help reduce uncertainty of the effects of hiking activities on Golden Eagles.
Article
Elicitation of expert opinion is important for risk analysis when only limited data are available. Expert opinion is often elicited in the form of subjective confidence intervals; however, these are prone to substantial overconfidence. We investigated the influence of elicitation question format, in particular the number of steps in the elicitation procedure. In a 3-point elicitation procedure, an expert is asked for a lower limit, upper limit, and best guess, the two limits creating an interval of some assigned confidence level (e.g., 80%). In our 4-step interval elicitation procedure, experts were also asked for a realistic lower limit, upper limit, and best guess, but no confidence level was assigned; the fourth step was to rate their anticipated confidence in the interval produced. In our three studies, experts made interval predictions of rates of infectious diseases (Study 1, n = 21 and Study 2, n = 24: epidemiologists and public health experts), or marine invertebrate populations (Study 3, n = 34: ecologists and biologists). We combined the results from our studies using meta-analysis, which found average overconfidence of 11.9%, 95% CI [3.5, 20.3] (a hit rate of 68.1% for 80% intervals)-a substantial decrease in overconfidence compared with previous studies. Studies 2 and 3 suggest that the 4-step procedure is more likely to reduce overconfidence than the 3-point procedure (Cohen's d = 0.61, [0.04, 1.18]).
Article
Thresholds and their relevance to conservation have become a major topic of discussion in the ecological literature. Unfortunately, in many cases the lack of a clear conceptual framework for thinking about thresholds may have led to confusion in attempts to apply the concept of thresholds to conservation decisions. Here, we advocate a framework for thinking about thresholds in terms of a structured decision making process. The purpose of this framework is to promote a logical and transparent process for making informed decisions for conservation. Specification of such a framework leads naturally to consideration of definitions and roles of different kinds of thresholds in the process. We distinguish among three categories of thresholds. Ecological thresholds are values of system state variables at which small changes bring about substantial changes in system dynamics. Utility thresholds are components of management objectives (determined by human values) and are values of state or performance variables at which small changes yield substantial changes in the value of the management outcome. Decision thresholds are values of system state variables at which small changes prompt changes in management actions in order to reach specified management objectives. The approach that we present focuses directly on the objectives of management, with an aim to providing decisions that are optimal with respect to those objectives. This approach clearly distinguishes the components of the decision process that are inherently subjective (management objectives, potential management actions) from those that are more objective (system models, estimates of system state). Optimization based on these components then leads to decision matrices specifying optimal actions to be taken at various values of system state variables. Values of state variables separating different actions in such matrices are viewed as decision thresholds. Utility thresholds are included in the objectives component, and ecological thresholds may be embedded in models projecting consequences of management actions. Decision thresholds are determined by the above-listed components of a structured decision process. These components may themselves vary over time, inducing variation in the decision thresholds inherited from them. These dynamic decision thresholds can then be determined using adaptive management. We provide numerical examples (that are based on patch occupancy models) of structured decision processes that include all three kinds of thresholds.
Article
Human-mediated environmental changes have resulted in appropriate concern for the conservation of ecological systems and have led to the development of many ecological monitoring programs worldwide. Many programs that are identified with the purpose of 'surveillance' represent an inefficient use of conservation funds and effort. Here, we revisit the 1964 paper by Platt and argue that his recommendations about the conduct of science are equally relevant to the conduct of ecological monitoring programs. In particular, we argue that monitoring should not be viewed as a stand-alone activity, but instead as a component of a larger process of either conservation-oriented science or management. Corresponding changes in monitoring focus and design would lead to substantial increases in the efficiency and usefulness of monitoring results in conservation.
An adaptive system to link science, monitoring and management in practice The Kruger experience: ecology and management of savanna heterogeneity
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Biggs HC, Rogers KH. 2003. An adaptive system to link science, monitoring and management in practice. Pages 59–80 in du Toit JT, Biggs H, Rogers KH, editors. The Kruger experience: ecology and management of savanna heterogeneity. Island Press, Washington, D.C.
Identifying objectives and alternative actions to frame a decision problem. Pages 29-43 in Guntenspergen GR, editor. Application of threshold concepts in natural resource decision making
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Runge MC, Walshe T. 2014. Identifying objectives and alternative actions to frame a decision problem. Pages 29-43 in Guntenspergen GR, editor. Application of threshold concepts in natural resource decision making. Springer, New York.
Intertidal reef monitoring program: Central Victoria marine protected areas
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Brown H, Donnelly D, Woods B, Edmunds M. 2013. Intertidal reef monitoring program: Central Victoria marine protected areas, July 2013. Parks Victoria Technical Series No. 95. Parks Victoria, Melbourne.
Parks Victoria Technical Series No. 95. Parks Victoria, Melbourne. Burgman MA. 2005. Risks and decisions for conservation and environmental management
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Brown H, Donnelly D, Woods B, Edmunds M. 2013. Intertidal reef monitoring program: Central Victoria marine protected areas, July 2013. Parks Victoria Technical Series No. 95. Parks Victoria, Melbourne. Burgman MA. 2005. Risks and decisions for conservation and environmental management. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom.
Effects of periodic disturbances from trampling on rocky intertidal algal beds
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Keeney RL. 1992. Value-focused thinking: a path to creative decisionmaking. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Keough MJ, Quinn GP. 1998. Effects of periodic disturbances from trampling on rocky intertidal algal beds. Ecological Applications 8:141-161.