Ecological risk assessments to guide decision-making

Methodology matters

Gerjan J. Piet*, Antony M. Knights, Ruud H. Jongbloed, Jacqueline E. Tamis, Pepijn de Vries, Leonie A. Robinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Ecological risk assessment is often applied to guide the decision-making process that underpins ecosystem-based management and prioritisation of risk factors for management. Several studies have recently used ecological risk assessment approaches to identify risk factors of greatest concern, but rarely are the underlying methodological decisions discussed in terms of the effect that those decisions have on the outcome of the assessment and ultimately, how that affects prioritisation of risk factors for management. This study therefore evaluates the effect of methodological decisions involving (1) the choice and definition of risk factors, and (2) the calculation of risk scores, providing, where possible, recommendations on what should be the most appropriate methodologies. The definition of risk factors is often determined by the policy context and could result in the comparison of one broadly defined risk meta-factor (e.g. Food Production) with corresponding specific risk factors defined more narrowly (i.e. Oil and Gas production or Offshore Wind). Depending on the method to calculate risk this may result in a systematic bias prioritising any risk meta-factor. For the calculation of individual impact chain risk scores we compared weighted scores with ordinal scores, where the former allows more flexibility to represent the qualitative categories that determine risk and provided results better supported by scientific evidence. A consideration of different risk assessment applications in EBM showed there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this as these methodological decisions need to be considered in concert and the preferred methodology may depend on the context in which the risk assessment is applied. The outcome of the risk assessment should always be accompanied by an explicit consideration of these methodological issues and description of the resulting methodological choices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
JournalEnvironmental Science & Policy
Volume68
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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risk factor
risk assessment
decision making
methodology
prioritization
food production
gas production
oil production
management
decision
ecosystem
concert
decision-making process
flexibility
food

Keywords

  • Ecosystem component
  • Ecosystem-based management
  • Exposure-effect
  • Pressure
  • Sector

Cite this

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title = "Ecological risk assessments to guide decision-making: Methodology matters",
abstract = "Ecological risk assessment is often applied to guide the decision-making process that underpins ecosystem-based management and prioritisation of risk factors for management. Several studies have recently used ecological risk assessment approaches to identify risk factors of greatest concern, but rarely are the underlying methodological decisions discussed in terms of the effect that those decisions have on the outcome of the assessment and ultimately, how that affects prioritisation of risk factors for management. This study therefore evaluates the effect of methodological decisions involving (1) the choice and definition of risk factors, and (2) the calculation of risk scores, providing, where possible, recommendations on what should be the most appropriate methodologies. The definition of risk factors is often determined by the policy context and could result in the comparison of one broadly defined risk meta-factor (e.g. Food Production) with corresponding specific risk factors defined more narrowly (i.e. Oil and Gas production or Offshore Wind). Depending on the method to calculate risk this may result in a systematic bias prioritising any risk meta-factor. For the calculation of individual impact chain risk scores we compared weighted scores with ordinal scores, where the former allows more flexibility to represent the qualitative categories that determine risk and provided results better supported by scientific evidence. A consideration of different risk assessment applications in EBM showed there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this as these methodological decisions need to be considered in concert and the preferred methodology may depend on the context in which the risk assessment is applied. The outcome of the risk assessment should always be accompanied by an explicit consideration of these methodological issues and description of the resulting methodological choices.",
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Ecological risk assessments to guide decision-making : Methodology matters. / Piet, Gerjan J.; Knights, Antony M.; Jongbloed, Ruud H.; Tamis, Jacqueline E.; de Vries, Pepijn; Robinson, Leonie A.

In: Environmental Science & Policy, Vol. 68, 2017, p. 1-9.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Ecological risk assessments to guide decision-making

T2 - Methodology matters

AU - Piet, Gerjan J.

AU - Knights, Antony M.

AU - Jongbloed, Ruud H.

AU - Tamis, Jacqueline E.

AU - de Vries, Pepijn

AU - Robinson, Leonie A.

PY - 2017

Y1 - 2017

N2 - Ecological risk assessment is often applied to guide the decision-making process that underpins ecosystem-based management and prioritisation of risk factors for management. Several studies have recently used ecological risk assessment approaches to identify risk factors of greatest concern, but rarely are the underlying methodological decisions discussed in terms of the effect that those decisions have on the outcome of the assessment and ultimately, how that affects prioritisation of risk factors for management. This study therefore evaluates the effect of methodological decisions involving (1) the choice and definition of risk factors, and (2) the calculation of risk scores, providing, where possible, recommendations on what should be the most appropriate methodologies. The definition of risk factors is often determined by the policy context and could result in the comparison of one broadly defined risk meta-factor (e.g. Food Production) with corresponding specific risk factors defined more narrowly (i.e. Oil and Gas production or Offshore Wind). Depending on the method to calculate risk this may result in a systematic bias prioritising any risk meta-factor. For the calculation of individual impact chain risk scores we compared weighted scores with ordinal scores, where the former allows more flexibility to represent the qualitative categories that determine risk and provided results better supported by scientific evidence. A consideration of different risk assessment applications in EBM showed there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this as these methodological decisions need to be considered in concert and the preferred methodology may depend on the context in which the risk assessment is applied. The outcome of the risk assessment should always be accompanied by an explicit consideration of these methodological issues and description of the resulting methodological choices.

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KW - Ecosystem-based management

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