A step-wise process of decision-making under uncertainty when implementing environmental policy

AM Knights*, F Culhane, SS Hussain, KN Papadopoulou, GJ Piet, J Raakaer, SI Rogers, LA Robinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


An ecosystem approach forms the basis of many recent environmental policies. The under- lying concept states that decision-makers must consider the environmental, social and economic costs and benefits in the course of deciding whether to implement a management action. Decision-making can be undermined by uncertainty. Here, we discuss potential sources of uncertainty and their effect on an ecosystem approach-driven environmental policy, the factors affecting the choice and potential for management actions to achieve their objectives, the challenges associated with setting realistic and achievable targets, and how we can prioritise management of detrimental activities. We also consider how human challenges such as the availability of infrastructure and political will and ways of measuring costs and benefits and Member State interactions could also undermine environmental management. Potential limitations along with areas where further effort may be required to support ecosystem-based management objectives are highlighted and the advantages of a structured step-wise interdisciplinary approach to ecosystem management is shown.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56 - 64
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusFirst published - 15 Mar 2014


  • Ecosystem approach
  • Governance
  • Indicators
  • Management
  • Measures
  • Socio-economics


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