A new Australian study has demonstrated just how much environmental restoration projects can benefit from capturing and incorporating stakeholder values.
Luc Hoffman Institute and ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions researcher Dr Angela Guerrero Gonzalez of The University of Queensland’s School of Biological Sciences said the study successfully used a formal decision support framework called “structured decision making” (SDM) to guide decision makers through a decision process.
“This framework includes tools such as surveys, workshops and refinement of objectives plus specific steps for setting objectives and a mechanism for capturing different stakeholder values,” she said.
To demonstrate the SDM approach, the researchers partnered with the City of Gold Coast which was looking for a formal process for specifying restoration objectives to ensure that public expenditure on vegetation restoration across approximately 800 conservation parks, covering 12,000 ha was effective, efficient and transparent.
“Identifying stakeholder values is not easy which means that objectives often do not capture the fundamental outcomes that matter from a decision,” she said.
“If these outcomes are not made explicit, conflict between stakeholders can develop and it can also make it difficult to identify trade-offs between different alternative courses of action.
“It is important to make these trade-offs clear so that they can be understood, and negotiated between stakeholders.”
Dr Guerrero Gonzalez said the SDM approach was applied at the start of the project for stakeholders who included natural area managers, restoration ecologists and decision scientists.
She said the study showed how to account for different values, and also how to incorporate stakeholders’ expectations and preferences.
The study, Using structured decision making to set restoration objectives when multiple values and preferences exist, is published in Restoration Ecology (doi: 10.1111/rec.12591).
Funded by ARC CEED and the Australian Research Council Linkage Program, the project also involved researchers from UQ’s School of Biological Sciences, Murdoch University, Griffith University, University of Melbourne, City of Gold Coast, and Santa Clara University, U.S.