Auerbach NA, AIT Tulloch and HP Possingham (2014) Informed actions: Where to cost-effectively manage multiple threats to species to maximize return on investment.ECOLOGICAL APPLICATIONS 24(6):1357-1373

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Conservation practitioners, faced with managing multiple threats to biodiversity and limited funding, must prioritize investment in different management actions. From an economic perspective, it is routine practice to invest where the highest rate of return is expected. This return-on-investment (ROI) thinking can also benefit species conservation, and researchers are developing sophisticated approaches to support decision-making for cost-effective conservation. However, applied use of these approaches is limited. Managers may be wary of 'black-box' algorithms or complex methods that are difficult to explain to funding agencies. As an alternative, we demonstrate the use of a basic ROI analysis for determining where to invest in cost-effective management to address threats to species. This method can be applied using basic geographic information system and spread sheet calculations. We illustrate the approach in a management-action prioritization for a biodiverse region of eastern Australia. We use ROI to prioritize management actions for two threats to a suite of threatened species: habitat degradation by cattle grazing and predation by invasive red foxes (Vulpes vulpes). We show how decisions based on cost-effective threat management depend upon how expected benefits to species are defined and how benefits and costs co-vary. By considering a combination of species richness, restricted habitats, species vulnerability, and costs of management actions, small investments can result in greater expected benefit compared with management decisions that consider only species richness. Furthermore, a landscape management strategy that implements multiple actions is more efficient than managing only for one threat or more traditional approaches that don't consider ROI. Our approach provides transparent and logical decision-support for prioritizing different actions intended to abate threats associated with multiple species; it is of use when managers need a justifiable and repeatable approach to investmen