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Uncertainty analysis in the application of multi-criteria decision-making methods in Australian strategic environmental decisions

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Multi-criteria decision-making techniques have become increasingly widespread in strategic environmental decision making. In Australia, these techniques are used to integrate both conservation and development aspects of natural resource use. MCDM can also evaluate the effects of uncertainties at each stage of the decision-making process and examine the sensitivity of results to the inputs. This paper reviews the potential uncertainties in environmental management decision-making procedures and explores how uncertainty analysis in the framework of MCDM can address some of these uncertainties. It then examines the application of MCDM in 16 Australian case studies to determine how uncertainty has been addressed in practice. Results demonstrate that appropriate use of MCDM can address uncertainties associated with decision-makers’ preferences and from using different techniques (epistemic uncertainty). Results also highlighted the need for incorporating visualising techniques, such as GIS and simulation algorithms (e.g. Monte Carlo simulations), to examine the effects of uncertainty on the spatial pattern of the outcomes. This approach also presents promising ways to gain an understanding of the effects of some dimensions of stochastic uncertainty, and assists in increasing the transparency of the decision-making process.
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Keywords: Australia; multi-criteria decision making; strategic environmental decisions; uncertainty

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Griffith Centre for Coastal Management, Griffith University, Parklands Drive, QLD 4222, Australia 2: Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Parklands Drive, QLD 4222, Australia 3: Waterways and Flood Management, Gold Coast City Council, Nerang, QLD 4211, Australia

Publication date: October 1, 2013

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