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A new, dynamic decision-making tool from North Central and Southeast CASC researchers and partners helps identify resource management challenges, potential solutions, and other considerations under uncertain climatic futures. 

Making decisions on how to manage natural resources in the face of climate change is tricky. There are often competing values or objectives, complex social dynamics, limited resources, and uncertain ecological responses to a changing environment. Decision frameworks can help provide something like a roadmap to make informed and thoughtful choices by breaking down the decision-making process into manageable steps.  

Two well-established decision frameworks are scenario planning (SP) and structured decision making (SDM). While both are useful approaches, they both have limitations in the context of climate change challenges. SP is good for examining different possibilities and outcomes but doesn’t provide a clear way to make choices. It lacks a clear way to set objectives, quantify tradeoffs, and evaluate outcomes. On the other hand, SDM uses numbers and assessments to help make choices but often oversimplifies complex situations and overlooks unexpected scenarios. These limitations led researchers from the Southeast and North Central CASC’s, the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the National Park Service to offer a new framework that draws from the strengths of SP and SDM approaches and resulted in Scenario-Based Decision Analysis (SBDA). A description of this new framework was published in the journal Biological Conservation. 

SBDA combines parts of SP and SDM to offer a flexible and analytical approach to decision-making in the context of climate change. Decision-makers can use the new SBDA framework to identify resource management challenges, potential solutions, and to consider uncertainties or surprises that may occur. 

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