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Application of risk assessment and decision analysis to aquatic nuisance species

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Abstract

The spread of nonindigenous (nonnative) species introduced into the United States is a significant and growing national problem and results in lost agricultural productivity, increased health problems, native species extinctions, and expensive prevention and eradication efforts. Thousands of nonindigenous species have either become established or spread, and introduction of aquatic nuisance species (ANS) into freshwater lakes threaten aquatic biodiversity. Expanding global trade is likely to increase the number of species that are spread across the globe, so the need to develop an approach to predict potential ANS invasions is great. Risk assessments currently being used to assess ANS risk rely on qualitative or semiquantitative information and expert opinion; thus, such approaches lack transparency and repeatability. A more quantitative approach is needed to augment the qualitative approaches currently in use. A quantitative approach with the use of the traditional ecological risk assessment (traditional ERA) framework combined with decision analysis tools was developed for assessing ANS risks in which the causative ecological risk agent is an organism rather than a chemical. This paper presents a systematic risk assessment framework that includes structured decision analysis to help organize and analyze pertinent data, state assumptions, address uncertainties in estimating the probability of an undesired ANS introduction, or spread and integrate these outputs with stakeholder values. This paper also describes when and how decision analysis tools can be used in such assessments for ANS. This framework and methodology will enable risk managers to systematically evaluate and compare alternatives and actions supporting ANS risk management and thus credibly prioritize resources.

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