Cooperation is Key in Finding Cost-Effective Management Solutions in West Maui

In a new article published in the Journal of Environmental Management, the Ocean Tipping Points team discusses strategies for land-based source pollution management, demonstrating the benefits of trade-off analyses to help inform management decisions. Cooperation is key, but not alone.

Increased runoff of sediment and pollutants from land threaten coral reef ecosystems around the world. Land-based source pollutants have been linked to degradation on some Hawaiian reefs, affecting the production of goods and services critical to many coastal residents. To help address the challenge of managing these pollutants with limited resources, Ocean Tipping Points researchers examined changes in land-based source pollutants and compared the costs and benefits of different potential management strategies. In this study, “Upstream solutions to coral conservation: The payoffs of smart and cooperative decision-making,” the team specifically examined the trade-offs among potential agricultural road repair management scenarios in west Maui, Hawai‘i. Seven management scenarios were considered, defined by their decision-making scope (cooperative or independent) and approach to road repair (minimizing costs, reducing sediment, or both).

Researchers found that landowner cooperation can achieve the best environmental gains for lowest economic cost, although collective action alone (without considering cost-effectiveness) does not offer substantial benefits and can even be counter-productive. Additionally, landowners should focus on repairing key “hotspots” of road segments that provide more sediment reduction per dollar spent. Overall, coordinated decision-making and collective action can enhance management outcomes, but the evaluation of cost-effectiveness is essential in guiding maximally effective management actions. These findings highlight the utility of trade-off analyses and decision support tools to help managers achieve the best environmental and economic outcomes.

Upstream solutions to coral reef conservation: The payoffs of smart and cooperative decision-making
Oleson, K.L., Falinski, K.A., Lecky, J., Rowe, C., Kappel, C.V., Selkoe, K.A., White, C. Journal of Environmental Management, January 2017, doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2016.12.067

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