Combining Conservation Value, Vulnerability, and Effectiveness of Mitigation Actions in Spatial Conservation Decisions: An Application to Coastal Oil Spill Combating
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- Ihaksi, T., Kokkonen, T., Helle, I. et al. Environmental Management (2011) 47: 802. doi:10.1007/s00267-011-9639-y
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Increasing oil transportation and severe oil accidents in the past have led to the development of various sensitivity maps in different countries all over the world. Often, however, the areas presented on the maps are far too large to be safeguarded with the available oil combating equipment and prioritization is required to decide which areas must be safeguarded. While oil booms can be applied to safeguard populations from a drifting oil slick, decision making on the spatial allocation of oil combating capacity is extremely difficult due to the lack of time, resources and knowledge. Since the operational decision makers usually are not ecologists, a useful decision support tool including ecological knowledge must be readily comprehensible and easy to use. We present an index-based method that can be used to make decisions concerning which populations of natural organisms should primarily be safeguarded from a floating oil slick with oil booms. The indices take into account the relative exposure, mortality and recovery potential of populations, the conservation value of species and populations, and the effectiveness of oil booms to safeguard different species. The method has been implemented in a mapping software that can be used in the Gulf of Finland (Baltic Sea) for operational oil combating. It could also be utilized in other similar conservation decisions where species with varying vulnerability, conservational value, and benefits received from the management actions need to be prioritized.