Game ET, JA Fitzsimons, G Lipsett-Moore and E McDonald-Madden (2013) Subjective risk assessment for planning conservation projects. ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH LETTERS 4(4)

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Conservation projects occur under many types of uncertainty. Where this uncertainty can affect achievement of a project's objectives, there is risk. Understanding risks to project success should influence a range of strategic and tactical decisions in conservation, and yet, formal risk assessment rarely features in the guidance or practice of conservation planning. We describe how subjective risk analysis tools can be framed to facilitate the rapid identification and assessment of risks to conservation projects, and how this information should influence conservation planning. Our approach is illustrated with an assessment of risks to conservation success as part of a conservation plan for the work of The Nature Conservancy in northern Australia. Risks can be both internal and external to a project, and occur across environmental, social, economic and political systems. Based on the relative importance of a risk and the level of certainty in its assessment we propose a series of appropriate, project level responses including research, monitoring, and active amelioration. Explicit identification, prioritization, and where possible, management of risks are important elements of using conservation resources in an informed and accountable manner.