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IRCEB: Ecological Forecasting and Risk Analysis of Nonindigenous Species

Intellectual merit. Numbers of nonindigenous species--species introduced from elsewhere - are<br/>increasing rapidly worldwide. They are a major cause of biodiversity loss and environmental<br/>change, and are estimated to cost the US $137 billion/yr. The 2001 National Invasive Species<br/>Management Plan ( highlighted the urgent need for more rigorous and<br/>comprehensive risk analysis frameworks for nonindigenous species so that prevention and<br/>control strategies can be targeted appropriately. The central public policy consideration is how<br/>much of society's resources should be expended in response to nonindigenous species, and how,<br/>for example, should it be allocated between prevention and control? These considerations,<br/>though, include a nexus of interacting ecological and economic factors that require<br/>interdisciplinary effort. Species invasions are caused by economic activities, and in turn affect<br/>economic activities. This ecological and economic linkage and feedback means that the<br/>assessment of risk interacts with the management of risk, which contradicts the common notion<br/>that risk assessment and risk management are independent. Social welfare and risk assessment<br/>are both determined jointly by ecological and economic processes.<br/>In response to the need for interdisciplinary risk analysis, this project brings together<br/>experts from invasion biology, mathematical modeling, and economics. The main goal is to<br/>develop and apply a bio-economic modeling framework for nonindigenous species that<br/>integrates risk assessment and risk management, includes uncertainty distributions, and<br/>optimizes prevention and control strategies in a landscape context. The overall bio-economic<br/>model uses Stochastic Dynamic Programming, which allows the investigators to incorporate<br/>ecological-economic feedbacks in such a way to optimize combinations of prevention and<br/>control strategies to maximize social welfare. This framework will be extended to the landscape<br/>scale with Neural Network models.<br/>The applications will focus on freshwater nonindigenous species in the Great Lakes<br/>region. A preliminary application to zebra mussels suggested, for example, that society should<br/>be spending about $240,000/yr to keep zebra mussels from invading each lake with a power<br/>plant (to prevent fouling of pipes). This is in sharp contrast to the $825,000 that the Fish &<br/>Wildlife Service spent in FY2001 for prevention and control efforts for all aquatic nuisance<br/>species for all lakes. Our analyses will be directly relevant to policymakers and natural resource<br/>managers.<br/>Broader impacts. The investigators will partner with the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago to<br/>educate schoolchildren and the public about the general problem of nonindigenous species, about<br/>what individuals can do to reduce the problem, and about the role that science plays in public<br/>policy decisions. By partnering with an educational software firm, they will convert research<br/>models into user-friendly formats for use by schoolchildren, the public, policymakers, resource<br/>managers, and stakeholders. In partnership with the Great Lakes Commission, research methods,<br/>results, and user-friendly products will be disseminated in workshops to policymakers, managers,<br/>and stakeholders. Finally, they will develop international collaborations and a reciprocal<br/>exchange of information and techniques with top researchers in Australia, where NIS research is<br/>advanced relative to North America.

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