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Keywords:

  • Conservation biology;
  • decisions;
  • ecology;
  • expert judgment;
  • extreme risks;
  • extreme value theory;
  • population viability;
  • sensitivity;
  • uncertainty

Extreme risks in ecology are typified by circumstances in which data are sporadic or unavailable, understanding is poor, and decisions are urgently needed. Expert judgments are pervasive and disagreements among experts are commonplace. We outline approaches to evaluating extreme risks in ecology that rely on stochastic simulation, with a particular focus on methods to evaluate the likelihood of extinction and quasi-extinction of threatened species, and the likelihood of establishment and spread of invasive pests. We evaluate the importance of assumptions in these assessments and the potential of some new approaches to account for these uncertainties, including hierarchical estimation procedures and generalized extreme value distributions. We conclude by examining the treatment of consequences in extreme risk analysis in ecology and how expert judgment may better be harnessed to evaluate extreme risks.