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      The impact is in the details: evaluating a standardized protocol and scale for determining non-native insect impact

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          Abstract

          Assessing the ecological and economic impacts of non-native species is crucial to providing managers and policymakers with the information necessary to respond effectively. Most non-native species have minimal impacts on the environment in which they are introduced, but a small fraction are highly deleterious. The definition of ‘damaging’ or ‘high-impact’ varies based on the factors determined to be valuable by an individual or group, but interpretations of whether non-native species meet particular definitions can be influenced by the interpreter’s bias or level of expertise, or lack of group consensus. Uncertainty or disagreement about an impact classification may delay or otherwise adversely affect policymaking on management strategies. One way to prevent these issues would be to have a detailed, nine-point impact scale that would leave little room for interpretation and then divide the scale into agreed upon categories, such as low, medium, and high impact. Following a previously conducted, exhaustive search regarding non-native, conifer-specialist insects, the authors independently read the same sources and scored the impact of 41 conifer-specialist insects to determine if any variation among assessors existed when using a detailed impact scale. Each of the authors, who were selected to participate in the working group associated with this study because of their diverse backgrounds, also provided their level of expertise and uncertainty for each insect evaluated. We observed 85% congruence in impact rating among assessors, with 27% of the insects having perfect inter-rater agreement. Variance in assessment peaked in insects with a moderate impact level, perhaps due to ambiguous information or prior assessor perceptions of these specific insect species. The authors also participated in a joint fact-finding discussion of two insects with the most divergent impact scores to isolate potential sources of variation in assessor impact scores. We identified four themes that could be experienced by impact assessors: ambiguous information, discounted details, observed versus potential impact, and prior knowledge. To improve consistency in impact decision-making, we encourage groups to establish a detailed scale that would allow all observed and published impacts to fall under a particular score, provide clear, reproducible guidelines and training, and use consensus-building techniques when necessary.

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          Most cited references 18

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          The role of expert opinion in environmental modelling

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            A route to more tractable expert advice.

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              Risk assessment for invasive species.

              Although estimates vary, there is a broad agreement that invasive species impose major costs on the U.S. economy, as well as posing risks to nonmarket environmental goods and services and to public health. The domestic effort to manage risks associated with invasive species is coordinated by the National Invasive Species Council (NISC), which is charged with developing a science-based process to evaluate risks associated with the introduction and spread of invasive species. Various international agreements have also elevated invasive species issues onto the international policy agenda. The World Trade Organization (WTO) Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement establishes rights and obligations to adhere to the discipline of scientific risk assessment to ensure that SPS measures are applied only to the extent required to protect human, animal, and plant health, and do not constitute arbitrary or unjustifiable technical barriers to trade. Currently, however, the field of risk assessment for invasive species is in its infancy. Therefore, there is a pressing need to formulate scientifically sound methods and approaches in this emerging field, while acknowledging that the demand for situation-specific empirical evidence is likely to persistently outstrip supply. To begin addressing this need, the Society for Risk Analysis Ecological Risk Assessment Specialty Group and the Ecological Society of America Theoretical Ecology Section convened a joint workshop to provide independent scientific input into the formulation of methods and processes for risk assessment of invasive species to ensure that the analytic processes used domestically and internationally will be firmly rooted in sound scientific principles.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                NeoBiota
                NB
                Pensoft Publishers
                1314-2488
                1619-0033
                April 03 2020
                April 03 2020
                : 55
                : 61-83
                Article
                10.3897/neobiota.55.38981
                © 2020

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