Uncertainty is Information, Too

Friday, February 5, 2016
A group of researchers, scientists and managers examine forest conditions and habitat suitability. One of the uncertainties they face is how alternative fuel management practices could reduce fire risk. By looking at various scenarios and the associated uncertainty, the team can develop risk metrics to help them compare the practices under consideration.

A group of researchers, scientists and managers examine forest conditions and habitat suitability. One of the uncertainties they face is how alternative fuel management practices could reduce fire risk. By looking at various scenarios and the associated uncertainty, the team can develop risk metrics to help them compare the practices under consideration.

NE CSC’s Frank Thompson of the University of Missouri and his Graduate Fellow Tom Bonnot explain how accounting for doubt helps inform decision making.

In this article in the trade magazine The Wildlife Professional, Frank, Tom and co-authors do a great job of explaining uncertainty (as well as its challenges and opportunities) to a general audience.

Uncertainty Is Information, Too  From The Wildlife Professional
The Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GCPO) faces the difficult task of designing and conserving landscapes in hardwood forests of the south-central United States. Their challenge is to devise a plan that takes into account an uncertain future of climate change and that is capable of sustaining plant and animal populations in landscapes that may look significantly different from those today. The forest’s current species are unlikely to respond similarly to a particular restoration scenario, which creates complicated tradeoffs among the responses as well as uncertainty in how individual species respond to the habitat, their own population dynamics, and changes to climate and the landscape.

Such scenarios are common in natural resource management today. No one in our profession particularly likes uncertainty, but resource management decisions of any scope and consequence invariably entail some degree of uncertainty and risk. When interpreted correctly, uncertainty itself is valuable information that helps natural resource professionals evaluate scenarios and ultimately make management decisions.

Risk in All We Do
Risk — essentially a measure of the probability and consequence of uncertain events — is an inevitable element of natural resource management. Risk analysis and risk management are integral parts of decision analysis. In classic decision theory, decisions focused on meeting stated objectives are based on articulating alternative potential actions, outcomes of those actions, probabilities of those outcomes occurring, and their costs and benefits.  Continue Reading >>