Abstract for oral presentation in theme session: Decision-making for assisted colonisation as a climate change adaptation strategy

Stefano Canessa (1)

1 Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park, London, UK. E: science@canessas.com, T:@can_essay

Assisted colonisation is a new and untested conservation technique, which means its potential outcomes are typically uncertain. This is not unusual for conservation, due to our incomplete knowledge of complex and variable natural systems. In some cases, there may be concerns that assisted colonisation may do more harm than good. The debate about risks reflects subjective reactions to this uncertainty: different attitudes to risk may lead to conflicting views on whether and how to undertake assisted colonisation. It is hard to make decisions in such circumstances, but conservationists can draw from risk-analytic methods that are well-established in other fields such as economics, engineering and healthcare. In this talk, I will outline a formal definition of risk attitude, as defined by expected utility theory, and explain the use of methods to identify best actions depending on uncertainty and risk. In particular, I will illustrate the use of stochastic dominance, a widely applied concept in economic decision-making, for decisions about translocations in the face of uncertainty and risk. Explicitly accounting for risk attitudes in the debate about assisted colonisation can promote a transparent assessment of probabilistic uncertainty and of the preferences and attitudes of decision-makers. These in turn can help ensure rational decisions are made and remove potential causes of conflict.

Species on the Move

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The conference brings together scientists and natural resource managers working in the disciplines of global change, biogeography and evolution, and relevant in contexts of natural resource management, biodiversity management and conservation, and theoretical ecology.


Species responses to climate change is a rapidly evolving research field, however, much of our progress is being made in independent research areas: e.g. understanding the process vs responding to the implications, terrestrial vs marine ecosystems, global meta-analyses vs in depth species-specific approaches. This interdisciplinary conference develops connections between these parallel streams, and across temporal and spatial scales.

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