Incorporating Uncertainty of Management Costs in Sensitivity Analyses of Matrix Population Models


Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia
School of Botany, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia

The importance of accounting for economic costs when making environmental-management decisions subject to resource constraints has been increasingly recognized in recent years. In contrast, uncertainty associated with such costs has often been ignored. We developed a method, on the basis of economic theory, that accounts for the uncertainty in population-management decisions. We considered the case where, rather than taking fixed values, model parameters are random variables that represent the situation when parameters are not precisely known. Hence, the outcome is not precisely known either. Instead of maximizing the expected outcome, we maximized the probability of obtaining an outcome above a threshold of acceptability. We derived explicit analytical expressions for the optimal allocation and its associated probability, as a function of the threshold of acceptability, where the model parameters were distributed according to normal and uniform distributions. To illustrate our approach we revisited a previous study that incorporated costefficiency analyses in management decisions that were based on perturbation analyses of matrix population models. Incorporating derivations from this study into our framework, we extended the model to address potential uncertainties. We then applied these results to 2 case studies: management of a Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) population and conservation of an olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) population. For low aspirations, that is, when the threshold of acceptability is relatively low, the optimal strategy was obtained by diversifying the allocation of funds. Conversely, for high aspirations, the budget was directed toward management actions with the highest potential effect on the population. The exact optimal allocation was sensitive to the choice of uncertainty model. Our results highlight the importance of accounting for uncertainty when making decisions and suggest that more effort should be placed on understanding the distributional characteristics of such uncertainty. Our approach provides a tool to improve decision making.