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Expert elicitation, uncertainty, and the value of information in controlling invasive species

March 22, 2017

We illustrate the utility of expert elicitation, explicit recognition of uncertainty, and the value of information for directing management and research efforts for invasive species, using tegu lizards (Salvator merianae) in southern Florida as a case study. We posited a post-birth pulse, matrix model in which four age classes of tegus are recognized: hatchlings, 1 year-old, 2 year-olds, and 3 + year-olds. This matrix model was parameterized using a 3-point process to elicit estimates of tegu demographic rates in southern Florida from 10 herpetology experts. We fit statistical distributions for each parameter and for each expert, then drew and pooled a large number of replicate samples from these to form a distribution for each demographic parameter. Using these distributions, as well as the observed correlations among elicited values, we generated a large sample of matrix population models to infer how the tegu population would respond to control efforts. We used the concepts of Pareto efficiency and stochastic dominance to conclude that targeting older age classes at relatively high rates appears to have the best chance of minimizing tegu abundance and control costs. We conclude that expert opinion combined with an explicit consideration of uncertainty can be valuable in conducting an initial assessment of what control strategy, effort, and monetary resources are needed to reduce and eventually eliminate the invader. Scientists, in turn, can use the value of information to focus research in a way that not only increases the efficacy of control, but minimizes costs as well.

Publication Year 2017
Title Expert elicitation, uncertainty, and the value of information in controlling invasive species
DOI 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2017.03.004
Authors Fred A. Johnson, Brian J. Smith, Mathieu Bonneau, Julien Martin, Christina Romagosa, Frank J. Mazzotti, J. Hardin Waddle, Robert Reed, Jennifer Kettevrlin Eckles, Laurie J. Vitt
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecological Economics
Index ID 70185306
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center