Integrating info-gap decision theory with robust population management: a case study using the Mountain Plover
PublisherEcological Society of America
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Wildlife managers often make decisions under considerable uncertainty. In the most extreme case, a complete lack of data leads to uncertainty that is unquantifiable. Information-gap decision theory deals with assessing management decisions under extreme uncertainty, but it is not widely used in wildlife management. So too, robust population management methods were developed to deal with uncertainties in multiple-model parameters. However, the two methods have not, as yet, been used in tandem to assess population management decisions. We provide a novel combination of the robust population management approach for matrix models with the information-gap decision theory framework for making conservation decisions under extreme uncertainty. We applied our model to the problem of nest survival management in an endangered bird species, the Mountain Plover (Charadrius montanus). Our results showed that matrix sensitivities suggest that nest management is unlikely to have a strong effect on population growth rate, confirming previous analyses. However, given the amount of uncertainty about adult and juvenile survival, our analysis suggested that maximizing nest marking effort was a more robust decision to maintain a stable population. Focusing on the twin concepts of opportunity and robustness in an information-gap model provides a useful method of assessing conservation decisions under extreme uncertainty.