Species are complicated systems, as are the environments they inhabit. Their protection and management can also be complex, involving multiple and competing human interests. Integrating all stakeholders and their varied concerns and contributions into the planning process can be key to achieving success; however, it can also add further layers of difficulty to an already challenging task.
Tools can help practitioners navigate through these challenges provided that each tool’s strengths and weaknesses are understood. The following provides general advice about what tools can and cannot do, and what issues to consider before selecting tools for a specific task or project. More detailed information about the individual tools can be accessed by clicking on the name of the tool in Abruzzi Table 1. Planning Tools Index.
What tools CAN do when used in an effective process:
• Help groups visualize problems more clearly.
• Help incorporate a wider array of ecosystem and human considerations into decision making for species.
• Help build on (rather than repeat) the work of others by using parameter databases, algorithms, and analyses built into tools.
• Help identify and clarify where there are gaps, uncertainties, or disagreement in our knowledge about potentially important aspects of the species biology, threats, and conservation options.
• Help to identify what assumptions are being made in the analyses and planning.
• Help guide you through processes so you can move from information to decision making more quickly.
• Save time and help you explore a wider range of alternatives by automating analyses or processes that occur repeatedly.
• Help you document what inputs and parameters were used in analyses and reasons that decisions were made.
• Help build collaboration among diverse project participants by creating a forum where stakeholder groups learn about and are encouraged to account for each other’s goals and concerns.
What tools do NOT do:
• Provide answers or decisions. They can however, provide quantitative results and visualization to help make decisions.
• Eliminate the need for analyses specific to your project. In fact, it may not be optimal to use an analytical tool if a project has highly constrained management options or analyses only need to be done a few times.
• Come with all the data they need. Projects considering the use of a tool should examine whether the data to use the tool already exists and, if it doesn't, whether there is sufficient time and resources to gather the necessary data.
• Eliminate the need to make trade-offs between competing objectives. However, they may be able to facilitate addressing and negotiating these trade-offs.
• Replace the need for intensive human interaction and collaboration or eliminate conflict. Poor incorporation of tools into a planning process can actually increase confusion and sometimes conflict.
This text was adapted with permission from the Ecosystem-based Management Tools Network website.
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