Decision tools for coral reef managers: Using participatory decision support to integrate potential climate impacts and informed decision making
The decline in coral reef health presents a complex management issue. While several causes of decline have been identified and are under continued study, it is often difficult to discern management actions necessary to address multiple near- and far-field stressors to these ecosystems. As a result, resource managers seek tools to improve the understanding of ecosystem condition and to develop management responses to reduce local and regional pressures in the wake of larger, global impacts. A research study conducted from 2010 to 2014 in southeast Florida, USA consisted of two objectives: (1) conduct a needs assessment survey with coral reef and marine resource managers to identify data needs and the preferred design and delivery of climate information; and (2) develop and evaluate prototype decision support tools. The needs assessment process was helpful for identifying the types of climate information managers would like to obtain to inform decision making and to specify the preferred format for the delivery of that information. Three prototype tools were evaluated by managers using pre/post surveys that included hands-on tutorials to explore the functionality of each. Manager responses were recorded using a five-point scale with 1 being No or Not Useful to 5 being Absolutely or Very Useful. The median responses rated the usefulness of the tools (4), if they would consider using the tool (4), and if they would recommend using the tool to other managers (4 or 5). The median response for increasing manager’s knowledge about climate impacts after completing a tutorial of each of the climate tools was a 3 (moderately useful). Of the managers surveyed in the pre/post-survey, all but one stated they believed they would use the decision support tools in the future with the single response due to wealth of data availability in their institution.