The committee found

  • That a broader understanding of the implications of biodiversity conservation is needed for resource management decisions on the various scales at which they are made.
  • That the available tools for estimating both economic and noneconomic values to management alternatives are limited in their usefulness in these decisions, in part because of the wide differences in philosophies of value held by the public, but also because of the nonmarket nature of so many of the values of biodiversity. No measure or calculus adequately provides for simultaneously weighing the full range of possible values in most such decisions.
  • That reaching public consensus on decisions involving biodiversity is hindered, often by the lack of facts on which agreement can be reached, but also by public processes that fail to take full advantage of opportunities to develop consensus.

Managers are faced with the unenviable, but necessary, task of weighing the various consequences of their actions in the absence of unambiguous supporting information on their effects on biological processes, local and global. They are faced with weighing the effects in terms that are relevant to people and their values and with doing this in the absence of unambiguous measures of human values. The dilemma for managers and society alike is that decisions must and will be made.

The committee found a need for better understanding of current conditions and trends related to biodiversity on the scales of typical resource-management decisions. This is a high-priority need. Applying scientific knowledge about values and biological processes generally requires relatively fine-grained information about both biological and value effects of management actions, including information on the potential cumulative effects of management and of use of resources on the basic elements of biodiversity. Despite the growing recognition of the importance of biodiversity in sustaining biological processes, major gaps still exist in our understanding. The case studies show the limits of existing knowledge of biodiversity and its implications, as well as the limits of the tools and processes for estimating values to be used in management decisions.

Managers need ways to evaluate the effects of decisions within their decision space in the broader regional or even global context of biodiversity conservation. A step in this direction is the relatively recent development of regional assessments of biological resources and the biological, economic, and social consequences in some regions of the United States (for example, the Interior Columbia River Basin and the southern Appalachians). Having this kind of information available would help resource managers of subregional areas to assess the possible cumulative effects of management and resource use, as well as biodiversity conservation, in their areas on the broader regional ecosystem.

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