Unexpected management choices when accounting for uncertainty in ecosystem service tradeoff analyses
Resource management and conservation are increasingly focused on the provision of ecosystem services and the potential tradeoffs among services under different management actions. Application of bioeconomic approaches to assessing these tradeoffs is becoming commonplace and touted as a way to find win-win outcomes or avoid unnecessary conflict among stakeholder groups. Yet nearly all assessments to date have ignored inherent uncertainties in the provision and valuation of services. Here, we present an approach for incorporating uncertainties in the decision framework and show how it improves policy choice among uncertain options in two case studies: mangrove nursery function versus shrimp farms in Viet Nam and fish yield versus conservation under different regulatory scenarios.
Most ecosystem service tradeoff assessments to date have focused on outer-bound solutions as optimal and stakeholder’s preference for various ecosystem services as static, i.e., unaffected by uncertainties. In the first case study, we show that an inner-bound solution can have higher utility than any of the outer-bound solutions when uncertainties are accounted for. In the second case study, we show that uncertainties can modify stakeholder’s preference. Uncertainties have the paradoxical effect of making stakeholders value conservation even though their preference is solely to maximize gain from an extractive ecosystem service. The approach we have developed emphasizes practicality, both for scientists who must provide uncertainty assessments and for decision makers who must comprehend and integrate them in decision processes.