, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 235-252

Using Decision Analysis to Choose Phosphorus Targets for Lake Erie

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Lake Erie water quality has improved dramatically since the degraded conditions of the 1960s. Additional gains could be made, but at the expense of further investment and reductions in fishery productivity. In facing such cross-jurisdictional issues, natural resource managers in Canada and the United States must grapple with conflicting objectives and important uncertainties, while considering the priorities of the public that live in the basin. The techniques and tools of decision analysis have been used successfully to deal with such decision problems in a range of environmental settings, but infrequently in the Great Lakes. The objective of this paper is to illustrate how such techniques might be brought to bear on an important, real decision currently facing Lake Erie resource managers and stakeholders: the choice of new phosphorus loading targets for the lake. The heart of our approach is a systematic elicitation of stakeholder preferences and an investigation of the degree to which different phosphorus-loading policies might satisfy ecosystem objectives. Results show that there are potential benefits to changing the historical policy of reducing phosphorus loads in Lake Erie.