Integrating scientific expertise into decision -making: Decision tools for the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area
A decision support tool to assess environmental vulnerability to boat activities was developed for the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area (BHINRA). A modified “weight of evidence” method was used to elicit information from a panel of scientific experts. Information thus gathered was entered into a GIS-based decision support tool.
An overview of environmental problems and governance structure in the BHINRA revealed specific management problems and challenges. Since Congress created BHINRA as America's newest national park in 1996, planning has been fragmented, with no comprehensive program to establish sustainable use patterns. The founding legislation defined a new model wherein the federal government owns none of the land and public and private entities will raise funds to be matched by the federal government to establish and sustain the Park. Linking marine governance to the paradigm of sustainable development will require the creation of tools to support complex decision processes.
A methodology to facilitate the integration of scientific knowledge with stakeholder concerns was developed and applied. A workshop was held with the specific objective of eliciting scientific expertise to be incorporated into the decision-making process concerning management of boat activity in the BHINRA. The outcome of the workshop was the definition of ecological endpoint goals and measures of effect. The ecological endpoint goals are defined as the explicit expressions of the environmental issue to be protected. The measures of effect are the specific lines of evidence used to evaluate the chosen ecological endpoint goals. The goals and measures were integrated into a new decision tool using a modified “weight-of-evidence” approach to input scientific expertise into a Geographic Information System model.
The GIS model produces maps identifying the spatial patterns of ecological vulnerability to boat traffic in the islands and surrounding waters. The result was an intuitively appealing, comprehensive and interactive tool that will aid decision makers in choosing boat routes and defining “no-go” areas for boats.
0768: Environmental science