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Combining Conservation Value, Vulnerability, and Effectiveness of Mitigation Actions in Spatial Conservation Decisions: An Application to Coastal Oil Spill Combating


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.

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The authors would like to thank all the species experts from the Finnish Environment Institute (Terhi Ryttäri, Ilpo Mannerkoski, Markku Mikkola-Roos, Heidi Kaipiainen, Guy Söderman), University of Helsinki (Aleksi Lehikoinen, Marja Koistinen, Anders Albrecht), Metsähallitus (Seppo Karjalainen), Finnish Lepidopterological Society (Jari Kaitila), Finnish Game and Fisheries Institute (Olavi Stenman), Tapio Rintanen and Tatu Hokkanen and all the other people who had an essential role in the development and estimation of the indices. In addition we would like to thank Tapio Suominen from Turku University for providing us with the fetch data and Heidi Pettersson from the Finnish Institute of Marine Research for critical comments on the fetch approach. The study was delivered as part of Finnish-Estonian OILECO project financed by INTERREG IIIA programme, City of Kotka and Southeast Finland Regional Environment Centre. The second author wishes to acknowledge the Academy of Finland for providing funding to this work.

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Correspondence to Taina Ihaksi.

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Ihaksi, T., Kokkonen, T., Helle, I. et al. Combining Conservation Value, Vulnerability, and Effectiveness of Mitigation Actions in Spatial Conservation Decisions: An Application to Coastal Oil Spill Combating. Environmental Management 47, 802–813 (2011).

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  • Conservation
  • Management
  • Prioritization
  • Vulnerability
  • Sensitivity
  • Recovery
  • Oil spill
  • Valuation