Tom Leschine and Patrick Marchman
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Applying Risk Assessment Techniques for Salmon Management, with Implications for Factoring in Climate Effects
Risk assessment is a versatile tool that can effectively be applied to many ecological management issues, including salmon management in the Pacific Northwest. Key steps and concepts include risk assessment, characterization, management and communication. The flip side of risk is vulnerability, and the social processes of risk amplification and risk attenuation operate to influence public attitudes about risk, including the significance of vulnerability to risks posed by climate change. The strength of these influences on risk attitudes highlights the importance of processes for communicating and debating risk information, notably the National Research Council's "analytic-deliberative framework". Ecological risk assessment approaches are finding increasing application to questions of salmon recovery, the effects of land use changes on ecological resources, and the examination of impacts of various scenarios of climate change. The effects of climate change on the future of salmon viability in the most populous portions of our region are likely strongly mediated by concurrent land-use changes, highlighting the importance of assembling all these ingredients into a unified assessment. GIS-based work-in-progress addressing the implications of land-use changes in the lower Cedar River Basin for salmon habitat quality, and earlier related work on the vulnerability of potential restoration sites in the lower Cedar to adjacent land uses, provide useful starting points for addressing this challenge. Moving forward to examine the effects of climate change in conjunction with changing land-use on salmon survival would profitably take the form of a climate impact assessment as envisioned by the IPCC and others. The utility of this assessment to the region's salmon managers would likely be enhanced were it to be developed in the context of the NRC's analytic-deliberative approach, whereby experts, decision makers, and stakeholders in the region engage in a process that mutually "frames and informs" risk information as the impact assessment moves forward.
Tom Leschine is a professor in the University of Washington's School of Marine Affairs. Patrick Marchman is a MMA candidate in the University of Washington's School of Marine Affairs.