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 Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Maine. Refuge biologists, refuge managers, and research scientists identified multiple potential management actions to improve the ecological integrity of two marsh management units within the refuge complex, totaling about 47 hectares, 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 scale. Results indicated that, for the objectives and actions considered here, total management benefits may increase consistently up to $9,545, and may continue to increase at a lower rate with further expenditures. Potential management actions in optimal portfolios at total costs less than or equal to $9,545 included removing dikes to restore tidal flow in the Gouldsboro Bay management unit and installing runnels to improve surface-water drainage in the Sawyers Marsh management unit. The potential management benefits were derived from expected increases in the numbers of tidal marsh obligate breeding birds and density of spiders (as an indicator of trophic health), reduced duration of flooding, and increased capacity of marsh elevation to keep pace with sea-level rise. The prototype presented here does not resolve management decisions; rather, it provides a framework for decision making at the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex that can be updated for implementation as new data and information become available. Insights from this process may also be useful to inform future habitat management planning at the refuge complex.
|Title||Optimization of salt marsh management at the Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Maine, through use of structured decision making|
|Authors||Hilary A. Neckles, James E. Lyons, Jessica L. Nagel, Susan C. Adamowicz, Toni Mikula, Sara Williams|
|Publication Subtype||USGS Numbered Series|
|Series Title||Open-File Report|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Patuxent Wildlife Research Center; Eastern Ecological Science Center|
James E Lyons, Ph.D.
James E Lyons, Ph.D.