A structured analysis of risk to important wildlife elements in three Australian Wildlife Conservancy sanctuaries

Date: 08, Nov, 2019
Author(s):   Smith, M., Jackson, C., Palmer, N., Palmer, B.
Publisher: Ecological Management & Restoration

Where data and information are lacking, structured expert risk assessments can provide a powerful tool to progress natural resource planning. In many situations, practitioners make informal assessments of risk within small groups that typically constitute employees. In this study, we report on three small (in terms of experts) structured expert‐based risk assessment case studies conducted by expert employees of a not‐for‐profit organisation (Australian Wildlife Conservancy) to demonstrate the utility of the approach. The case studies were carried out for three wildlife sanctuaries managed by AWC: Faure Island, Karakamia and Paruna. The likelihood that a set of direct risk factors would cause management failure for sets of important wildlife elements in the three sanctuaries was elicited from the small group of ecological experts. The analysis was couched in terms of a management aim to not lose species from each wildlife element over the management period of 25 years with current management. The experts believed, in particular, that increasing temperature and decreasing water availability associated with climate change were likely to impact significantly upon the vegetation elements and water‐reliant fauna associated with the sanctuaries. Some vegetation elements were also thought likely to be at risk of over‐grazing, unsuitable fire regimes and, in some cases, disease. In addition to predation by exotic predators at one sanctuary, the experts identified additional direct risk factors for various fauna elements associated with expected changes to the vegetation elements, including reduction in food availability, nesting habitat, and generally important life media. From the risk analyses, a preliminary conceptual model was developed to underpin monitoring and to indicate areas for possible management intervention and research. The case studies demonstrate that even in a small workplace team, structured risk assessments can be efficiently accomplished and can provide expedient and transparent information that effectively captures and aggregates the views of the experts.