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Minimizing Risks from Spilled Oil to Ecosystem Services Using Influence Diagrams: The Deepwater Horizon Spill Response

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journal contribution
posted on 15.09.2011, 00:00 by John F. Carriger, Mace G. Barron
Decision science tools can be used in evaluating response options and making inferences on risks to ecosystem services (ES) from ecological disasters. Influence diagrams (IDs) are probabilistic networks that explicitly represent the decisions related to a problem and their influence on desired or undesired outcomes. To examine how IDs might be useful in probabilistic risk management for spill response efforts, an ID was constructed to display the potential interactions between exposure events and the trade-offs between costs and ES impacts from spilled oil and response decisions in the DWH spill event. Quantitative knowledge was not formally incorporated but an ID platform for doing this was examined. Probabilities were assigned for conditional relationships in the ID and scenarios examining the impact of different response actions on components of spilled oil were investigated in hypothetical scenarios. Given the structure of the ID, potential knowledge gaps included understanding of the movement of oil, the ecological risk of different spill-related stressors to key receptors (e.g., endangered species, fisheries), and the need for stakeholder valuation of the ES benefits that could be impacted by a spill. Framing the Deepwater Horizon problem domain in an ID conceptualized important variables and relationships that could be optimally accounted for in preparing and managing responses in future spills. These features of the developed IDs may assist in better investigating the uncertainty, costs, and the trade-offs if large-scale, deep ocean spills were to occur again.