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Assessing the risks of changing ongoing management of endangered species

Ferrière, C; Zuël, N; Ewen, J; Jones, C; Tatayah, V; Canessa, S; (2021) Assessing the risks of changing ongoing management of endangered species. Animal Conservation , 24 (2) pp. 153-160. 10.1111/acv.12602. Green open access

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Abstract

Recovery programmes for endangered species can become increasingly demanding over time, but managers may be reluctant to change ongoing actions that are believed to be assisting recovery. We used a quantitative risk assessment to choose support strategies for a reintroduced population of Mauritius olive white‐eyes Zosterops chloronothos. Facing increasing costs, managers considered changing the ongoing supplementary feeding strategy, but at the same time worried this could jeopardize the observed positive population trend. We used a feeding experiment to compare the current feeding regime and a cheaper alternative (a simple sugar/water mix). Results suggested the cheaper alternative would only marginally reduce population vital rates. We assessed the influence of these results and the associated uncertainty on population recovery and management costs using two decision‐analytic criteria, incremental cost‐effectiveness ratio and stochastic dominance. The new feeding regime was expected to be, on average, more cost‐effective than the status quo. Moreover, even negative outcomes would only likely mean a slower growing population, not a declining one, whereas not changing feeding regime actually entailed greater risk. Because shifting from the current regime to a cheaper sugar/water mixture was both a risk‐averse and a cost‐effective choice, we decided to implement this change. Four years after the experiment, the population continues to grow and costs have been contained, matching predictions almost exactly. In this case, the field experiment provided useful empirical information about prospective actions; the risk analysis then helped us understand the real implications of changing the feeding regime. We encourage managers of recovery plans facing a similar situation to explicitly recognize trade‐offs and risk aversion, and address them by combining targeted research and formal decision analysis.

Type: Article
Title: Assessing the risks of changing ongoing management of endangered species
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1111/acv.12602
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1111/acv.12602
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: cost-effectiveness, experiment, Mauritius, reintroductions, risk aversion, supplementary feeding, stochastic dominance, uncertainty
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Genetics, Evolution and Environment
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10104551
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