Biological Invasions

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 1273–1288 | Cite as

Meeting the challenge of quantitative risk assessment for genetic control techniques: a framework and some methods applied to the common Carp (Cyprinus carpio) in Australia

  • Keith R. Hayes
  • Brian Leung
  • Ronald Thresher
  • Jeffrey M. Dambacher
  • Geoffrey R. Hosack
Original Paper


In Australia the European carp is widespread, environmentally damaging and difficult to control. Genetic control options are being developed for this species but risk-assessment studies to support these options have been limited. The key science challenge in this context is our limited understanding of complex and highly variable ecosystems. Hierarchical models are one way to approach this complexity and heterogeneity. These models treat the factors that determine risk as a joint probability distribution that can be factored into a series of simpler conditional distributions to allow Bayesian inference following observed outcomes. Designing a risk assessment around this approach, however, requires that the assessment endpoints (such as impacts on native species) are measurable, and that monitoring strategies are carefully designed and implemented in order that risk predictions are compared to outcomes. We therefore suggest that an evidence-based framework, supported by careful hazard analysis and quantitative risk assessment, and implemented within a stage-released protocol, is the safest way to move beyond the current emphasis on contained laboratory studies and qualitative risk assessments. We highlight impediments to this approach, and use the non-target impacts of daughterless carp in Australian billabongs as a case study to illustrate three methodological tools that not only provide solutions to some of these impediments but also encourage stakeholder participation in the risk assessment process.


Genetic control Invasive fish Risk assessment Fault tree analysis Loop analysis Bayesian networks 



We sincerely thank Anne Kapuscinski and Leah Sharpe for organising, and the Minnesota Sea Grant Program for supporting the international symposium on which this paper is based, and the diverse participants in the symposium, whose insightful comments on the emerging technology greatly facilitated development of the ideas expressed in this paper. We are indebted to Stan Roberts (CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research) for useful comments on the fault tree analysis for viral mediated gene flow. We also thank Peter Caley (CSIRO) and two anonymous reviewers for comments that helped improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keith R. Hayes
    • 1
  • Brian Leung
    • 2
  • Ronald Thresher
    • 3
  • Jeffrey M. Dambacher
    • 1
  • Geoffrey R. Hosack
    • 1
  1. 1.CSIRO Mathematics, Informatics and StatisticsHobartAustralia
  2. 2.Department of BiologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  3. 3.CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric ResearchHobartAustralia

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