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Population dynamics and monitoring applied to decision-making

Keywords: Population dynamics , Monitoring , Decision-making

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Abstract:

Research in wildlife conservation and management often affects decisions made by managers. Improving understanding through applied research is key to advancing the ability to manage birds and other organisms efficiently. Indeed, many papers from EURING 2003 and previous EURING meetings describe research on problems of pressing management concern. In this session, we focus on a subset of studies in which modeling and statistical estimation is explicitly connected to management decision-making. In these decision–centric studies, data are gathered and models are constructed with the explicit intention of using the resulting information to inform decisions about conservation. Whereas ecological models often produce information of value to decision makers, decision models explicitly include two additional features. First, management options are modeled via decision variables that link to system attributes that are directly responsive to management actions, such as harvest and habitat management. Second, certain outcomes are assigned value, via an objective or utility function. Both of these features involve factors beyond the usual consideration of ecological modeling; the first implies the presence of one or more "decision makers", and the second characterizes the societal preferences of each possible outcome resulting from a prospective decision. Our plenary paper, by Tim Haas (Haas, 2004), ventures the furthest into the realm of human behavior and societal processes by modeling the political context for conservation of the endangered cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) in Africa. Haas shows that scientific information (e.g., population monitoring and population viability analyses) reaches decision makers through multiple pathways, each of which can modify or reinterpret the information signal. A predictive understanding of the country’s political as well as ecological processes is essential. Hass uses a system of interacting ecological and political influence diagrams to capture the stochastic, temporal processes of managing cheetah population in Kenya. The model predicts likely management decisions made by various actors within these countries, (e.g., the President, the Environmental Protection Agency, and rural residents) and the resulting probability of cheetah extinction following these decisions. By approaching the problem in both its political and ecological contexts one avoids consideration of decisions that, while beneficial from a purely conservation point of view, are unlikely to be implemented because of conflicting political objectives. Haas’s analysis

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