Evaluating a science-based decision support tool used to prioritize brook charr conservation project proposals in the eastern United States

Journal or Book Title: Hydrobiologia

Keywords: Brook charr (trout); Salvelinus fontinalis; decision support tool; regional fisheries management; fisheries conservation

Volume/Issue: 650

Page Number(s): 233-241

Year Published: 2010

Abstract:

Declines in brook charr (Salvelinus fontinalis) throughout its historic eastern United States of America (U.S.) range prompted the formation of the Eastern Brook Trout [Charr] Joint Venture (Joint Venture) whose mandate is to restore these charr by working cooperatively at a range-wide, regionalscale. Joint Venture habitat projects in the U.S. are initiated by local community-based organizations, assisted by fisheries management institutions, and funded through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In order to assist with ranking these community-based proposals for available funding, the Joint Venture designed a quantitative scoring method as a decision support tool that addressed range-wide threats that were documented to limit brook charr production. These threats include habitat modification (e.g., dams, urbanization, and agricultural landuse) and interactions with antagonistic non-native species [i.e., brown trout (Salmo trutta) and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)]. This article evaluated the prioritization method used by comparing the quantitative rankings of the proposals with the final reports for 12 completed projects using paired t tests for unequal sample sizes and variance. Two of the 12 comparisons revealed statistically significant differences (P<0.05) between project proposals and final reports; namely, the scoring criteria for the proposals did not accurately reflect the outcome of these projects in relation to brook charr management. Large inter-quartile ranges between reviewer scores were common, indicating that the quantitative scoring method includes qualitative elements. In addition to the science-based criteria, subjective value judgments by individual reviewers have factored into the Joint Venture’s decision making process. By evaluating the decision support tool, this analysis aims to assist the Joint Venture in structuring its approach to conservation and rehabilitation of brook charr populations in the eastern U.S. To better improve the Joint Venture’s ability to address brook charr management on a regional level, we recommend that future proposal prioritization scoring criteria provide more explicit guidance for accurate scoring, separate scoring methods for policy and assessment work, and a weighting factor for larger than sub-watershed projects and for scoring criteria for which information is unknown.

DOI: 10.1007/s10750-009-9989-0

Type of Publication: Journal Article

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