Decision analysis for species preservation under sea-level rise

Author(s): Linhoss, A.; Kiker, G.; Aiello-Lammens, M.; Chu-Agor, M.; Convertino, M.; Munoz-Carpena, R.; Fischer, R.; Linkov, I.

Sea-level rise is expected to dramatically alter low-lying coastal and intertidal areas, which provide important habitat for shoreline-dependent species. The Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus) is a threatened shorebird that relies on Gulf Coast sandy beaches for nesting and breeding. Selecting a management strategy for the conservation of this species under sea-level rise is a complex task that entails the consideration of multiple streams of information, stakeholder preferences, value judgments, and uncertainty. We use a spatially explicit linked modeling process that incorporates geomorphological (SLAMM), habitat (MaxEnt), and metapopulation (RAMAS GIS) models to simulate the effect of sea-level rise on Snowy Plover populations. We then apply multi-criteria decision analysis to identify preferred management strategies for the conservation of the species. Two decision analysis techniques are compared: Multiple Attribute Utility Theory and Stochastic Multi-criteria Acceptability Analysis. We investigate four conservation strategies including no action, beach nourishment, nest exclosures, and predator management. Results show that predator management and nest exclosures are the most promising conservation strategies. This is an innovative method for planning for sea-level rise through pairing a linked modeling system with decision analysis to provide management focused results in an inherently uncertain future.

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