Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Optimization of salt marsh management at the Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex, New York, through use of structured decision making

August 11, 2021

Structured decision making is a systematic, transparent process for improving the quality of complex decisions by identifying measurable management objectives and feasible management actions; predicting the potential consequences of management actions relative to the stated objectives; and selecting a course of action that maximizes the total benefit achieved and balances tradeoffs among objectives. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, applied an existing, regional framework for structured decision making to develop a prototype tool for optimizing tidal marsh management decisions at the Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex in New York. Refuge biologists, refuge managers, and research scientists identified multiple potential management actions to improve the ecological integrity of five marsh management units within the refuge complex and estimated the outcomes of each action in terms of performance metrics associated with each management objective. Value functions previously developed at the regional level were used to transform metric scores to a common utility scale, and utilities were summed to produce a single score representing the total management benefit that could be accrued from each potential management action. Constrained optimization was used to identify the set of management actions, one per marsh management unit, that could maximize total management benefits at different cost constraints at the refuge-complex scale. Results indicated that, for the objectives and actions considered here, total management benefits may increase consistently up to about $24,000, but that further expenditures may yield diminishing return on investment. Potential management actions in optimal portfolios at total costs less than $24,000 consistently included approaches for increasing drainage from the marsh surface within the marsh management units. The potential management benefits were derived from expected improvements in surface-water drainage and capacity for marsh elevation to keep pace with sea-level rise, and presumed increases in numbers of spiders (as an indicator of trophic health) and tidal marsh obligate birds. The prototype presented here does not resolve management decisions; rather, it provides a framework for decision making at the Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex that can be updated as new data and information become available. Insights from this process may also be useful to inform future habitat management planning at the refuges.

Publication Year 2021
Title Optimization of salt marsh management at the Long Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex, New York, through use of structured decision making
DOI 10.3133/ofr20211070
Authors Hilary A. Neckles, James E. Lyons, Jessica L. Nagel, Susan C. Adamowicz, Toni Mikula, Monica R. Williams
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2021-1070
Index ID ofr20211070
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Ecological Science Center