Minimizing the Cost of Keeping Options Open for Conservation in a Changing Climate

Authors

  • MORENA MILLS,

    1. Global Change Institute, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia
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  • SAM NICOL,

    1. CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Ecoscience Precinct, Dutton Park, Queensland 4102, Australia
    2. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia
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  • JESSIE A. WELLS,

    1. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia
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  • JOSÉ J. LAHOZ-MONFORT,

    1. National Environmental Research Program, School of Botany, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia
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  • BRENDAN WINTLE,

    1. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, School of Botany, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia
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  • MICHAEL BODE,

    1. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, School of Botany, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia
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  • MARTIN WARDROP,

    1. Department of Sustainability, Environment and Water, Population and Communities, Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia
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  • TERRY WALSHE,

    1. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, School of Botany, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia
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  • WILLIAM J. M. PROBERT,

    1. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia
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  • MICHAEL C. RUNGE,

    1. U.S. Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD 20708, U.S.A.
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  • HUGH P. POSSINGHAM,

    1. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia
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  • EVE MCDONALD MADDEN

    1. CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Ecoscience Precinct, Dutton Park, Queensland 4102, Australia
    2. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia
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Abstract

Policy documents advocate that managers should keep their options open while planning to protect coastal ecosystems from climate-change impacts. However, the actual costs and benefits of maintaining flexibility remain largely unexplored, and alternative approaches for decision making under uncertainty may lead to better joint outcomes for conservation and other societal goals. For example, keeping options open for coastal ecosystems incurs opportunity costs for developers. We devised a decision framework that integrates these costs and benefits with probabilistic forecasts for the extent of sea-level rise to find a balance between coastal ecosystem protection and moderate coastal development. Here, we suggest that instead of keeping their options open managers should incorporate uncertain sea-level rise predictions into a decision-making framework that evaluates the benefits and costs of conservation and development. In our example, based on plausible scenarios for sea-level rise and assuming a risk-neutral decision maker, we found that substantial development could be accommodated with negligible loss of environmental assets. Characterization of the Pareto efficiency of conservation and development outcomes provides valuable insight into the intensity of trade-offs between development and conservation. However, additional work is required to improve understanding of the consequences of alternative spatial plans and the value judgments and risk preferences of decision makers and stakeholders.

Minimizando el Costo de Mantener Opciones Abiertas para la Conservación en un Clima Cambiante

Resumen

Los documentos de política abogan que los administradores deben mantener sus opciones abiertas mientras planean proteger a los ecosistemas costeros de los impactos del cambio climático. Sin embargo, el beneficio de mantener la flexibilidad permanece en su mayoría sin explorar y los acercamientos alternativos para la toma de decisiones bajo incertidumbre pueden llevar a mejores resultados conjuntos para la conservación y otras metas sociales. Por ejemplo, mantener las opciones abiertas para los ecosistemas costeros incurre en costos de oportunidad para los desarrolladores. Diseñamos un marco de trabajo de decisión que integra estos costos con pronósticos de probabilidad para la extensión del aumento en el nivel del mar para encontrar un balance entre la protección del ecosistema costero y el desarrollo costero moderado. Aquí sugerimos que en lugar de mantener sus opciones abiertas, los administradores deben incorporar predicciones inciertas del aumento en el nivel del mar en el marco de toma de decisiones que evalúe los beneficios y los costos de la conservación y el desarrollo. En nuestro ejemplo, basado en escenarios plausibles del aumento del nivel del mar y suponiendo que participa alguien que toma decisiones neutral al riesgo, encontramos que el desarrollo sustancial puede acomodarse con la pérdida despreciable de bienes ambientales. La caracterización de la eficiencia de Pareto de la conservación y los resultados del desarrollo proporcionaron una perspicacia valiosa para la intensidad de los equilibrios entre el desarrollo y la conservación. Sin embargo, se requiere trabajo adicional para mejorar el entendimiento de las consecuencias de los planes espaciales alternativos y los juicios de valor y las preferencias de riesgo de los tomadores de decisiones y las partes interesadas.

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