Objectives for Multiple-Species Conservation Planning

The Ecology Centre, School of Integrative Biology, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia.
Conservation Biology (Impact Factor: 4.17). 07/2006; 20(3):871-81. DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2006.00369.x
Source: PubMed


The first step in conservation planning is to identify objectives. Most stated objectives for conservation, such as to maximize biodiversity outcomes, are too vague to be useful within a decision-making framework. One way to clarify the issue is to define objectives in terms of the risk of extinction for multiple species. Although the assessment of extinction risk for single species is common, few researchers have formulated an objective function that combines the extinction risks of multiple species. We sought to translate the broad goal of maximizing the viability of species into explicit objectives for use in a decision-theoretic approach to conservation planning. We formulated several objective functions based on extinction risk across many species and illustrated the differences between these objectives with simple examples. Each objective function was the mathematical representation of an approach to conservation and emphasized different levels of threat. Our objectives included minimizing the joint probability of one or more extinctions, minimizing the expected number of extinctions, and minimizing the increase in risk of extinction from the best-case scenario. With objective functions based on joint probabilities of extinction across species, any correlations in extinction probabilities had to be known or the resultant decisions were potentially misleading. Additive objectives, such as the expected number of extinctions, did not produce the same anomalies. We demonstrated that the choice of objective function is central to the decision-making process because alternative objective functions can lead to a different ranking of management options. Therefore, decision makers need to think carefully in selecting and defining their conservation goals.
Resumen: La identificación de objetivos es el primer paso en la planificación de conservación. La mayoría de los objetivos de conservación, tal como maximizar la biodiversidad, son muy vagos para ser útiles en un marco de toma de decisiones. Una manera de clarificar el tema es la definición de objetivos en términos del riesgo de extinción de múltiples especies. Aunque la evaluación del riesgo de extinción de una especie individual es común, pocos investigadores han formulado una función de objetivos que combina los riesgos de extinción de múltiples especies. Tratamos de traducir el objetivo general de maximizar la viabilidad de especies en objetivos explícitos para ser usados en un método de decisión teórica de planificación de conservación. Formulamos diversas funciones de objetivos basados en el riesgo de extinción de muchas especies, e ilustramos las diferencias entre esos objetivos con ejemplos simples. Cada función de objetivo fue la representación matemática de un método de conservación y enfatizaba diferentes niveles de amenaza. Nuestros objetivos incluyeron la minimización de la probabilidad conjunta de una o más extinciones, la minimización del número esperado de extinciones y la minimización del incremento en el riesgo de extinción en el mejor escenario. Con las funciones de objetivos basadas en probabilidades conjuntas de extinción de las especies, cualquier correlación en las probabilidades de extinción debería ser conocida o las decisiones resultantes eran potencialmente erróneas. Objetivos aditivos, tal como el número esperado de extinciones, no produjeron las mismas anomalías. Demostramos que la elección de la función de objetivo es central en el proceso de toma de decisiones porque las funciones de objetivos alternativas pueden llevar a una diferente clasificación de las opciones de manejo. Por lo tanto, los tomadores de decisiones deben pensar la selección y definición de sus metas de conservación cuidadosamente.

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