Decision-making under great uncertainty: environmental management in an era of global change

Trends Ecol Evol. 2011 Aug;26(8):398-404. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2011.04.007. Epub 2011 May 26.


Global change issues are complex and the consequences of decisions are often highly uncertain. The large spatial and temporal scales and stakes involved make it important to take account of present and potential consequences in decision-making. Standard approaches to decision-making under uncertainty require information about the likelihood of alternative states, how states and actions combine to form outcomes and the net benefits of different outcomes. For global change issues, however, the set of potential states is often unknown, much less the probabilities, effect of actions or their net benefits. Decision theory, thresholds, scenarios and resilience thinking can expand awareness of the potential states and outcomes, as well as of the probabilities and consequences of outcomes under alternative decisions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Decision Making*
  • Decision Theory
  • Humans
  • Probability
  • Uncertainty