Risk and uncertainty

Addressing how to improve decision-making by investigating people's perceptions of risk and uncertainty, and the best ways to communicate them.

Led by Judi Hewitt (NIWA)

Being able to estimate the risk(s) associated with a course of action is necessary for any management regime; but where understanding is incomplete – ie uncertainty is high – it is difficult to assess risk.

Understanding how marine ecosystems respond to stressors is limited due to difficulties in collecting knowledge – oceans are vast, and collecting data is resource-intensive. There is also limited understanding of how environmental variability and climate change affect ecosystem responses; how direct effects of stressors spread through social and ecological systems to create indirect effects on ecological and economic health and social and cultural values; and how sectoral, personal and cultural perceptions of risk differ. Understanding perceptions is critical to understanding whether certain decisions and the potential consequences are acceptable to broad sectors of society.

We are investigating:

  • Methods that can 1) address risks to multiple ecosystem components, ecosystem services or values rather than single-species responses; 2) can accumulate risks across multiple stressors; 3) and predict sudden large changes
  • How to incorporate these methods into tools for decision-makers and other interested parties

Two projects are in the process of being co-developed.