Using Expert Judgments to Explore Robust Alternatives for Forest Management under Climate Change


Timothy McDaniels, School of Community and Regional Planning, University of British Columbia, 415-6333 Memorial Rd., Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z2 Canada; tel: 604-822-9288;


We develop and apply a judgment-based approach to selecting robust alternatives, which are defined here as reasonably likely to achieve objectives, over a range of uncertainties. The intent is to develop an approach that is more practical in terms of data and analysis requirements than current approaches, informed by the literature and experience with probability elicitation and judgmental forecasting. The context involves decisions about managing forest lands that have been severely affected by mountain pine beetles in British Columbia, a pest infestation that is climate-exacerbated. A forest management decision was developed as the basis for the context, objectives, and alternatives for land management actions, to frame and condition the judgments. A wide range of climate forecasts, taken to represent the 10–90% levels on cumulative distributions for future climate, were developed to condition judgments. An elicitation instrument was developed, tested, and revised to serve as the basis for eliciting probabilistic three-point distributions regarding the performance of selected alternatives, over a set of relevant objectives, in the short and long term. The elicitations were conducted in a workshop comprising 14 regional forest management specialists. We employed the concept of stochastic dominance to help identify robust alternatives. We used extensive sensitivity analysis to explore the patterns in the judgments, and also considered the preferred alternatives for each individual expert. The results show that two alternatives that are more flexible than the current policies are judged more likely to perform better than the current alternatives on average in terms of stochastic dominance. The results suggest judgmental approaches to robust decision making deserve greater attention and testing.