Clark, M.J. and Richards, K.J.
Supporting complex decisions for sustainable river management in England and Wales
Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 12, (4), . (doi:10.1002/aqc.530).
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1. Sustainable river management demands a strategic approach that renders even routine decisions highly complex if they are to be consistent, transparent and accountable. Under these circumstances, there is an increasing need for decision-support systems, although carefully structured guidelines and statements of best practice will continue to play a major supporting role.
2. This support is likely to be particularly important in wide-ranging contexts, from routine decisions in determining land drainage consents, to complex decisions involving significant uncertainty. Sustainable Upland River Corridor Management Evaluation System (SURCoMES) has been developed as a prototype system to demonstrate the potential scope and problems for providing decision support in complex and uncertain scenarios.
3. In its present form it focuses on the selection of management responses to problems of river bank erosion. It caters for uncertainty by providing guidance as to whether a particular decision is more or less sustainable than alternative options. It does not determine whether actions are absolutely sustainable or not.
4. Because of the judgemental nature of the questions, underlying criteria and standards have been built into the system. These evaluations, are, in part, subjective, even when based on existing best practice and experience, so a Delphi technique approach has been used to capture professional opinion from the research sector and the Environment Agency which is responsible for river management in England and Wales.
5. Decision support will undoubtedly have an important future in sustainable environmental management. The SURCoMES approach indicates potential applications, but the system requires further development and validation before it is implemented more widely.
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