Intervene or wait? A model evaluating the timing of intervention in conservation conflicts adaptive management under uncertainty



Bach A, Minderman J, Bunnefeld N, Mill A & Duthie A (2022) Intervene or wait? A model evaluating the timing of intervention in conservation conflicts adaptive management under uncertainty. Ecology and Society, 27 (3), Art. No.: 3.

The timing of biodiversity managers' interventions can be critical to the success of conservation, especially in situations of conflict between conservation objectives and human livelihood, i.e., conservation conflicts. Given the uncertainty associated with complex social-ecological systems and the potentially irreversible consequences of delayed action for biodiversity and livelihoods, managers tend to simply intervene as soon as possible by precaution. However, refraining from intervening when the situation allows it can be beneficial, notably by saving critical management resources. Here, we introduce a strategy for managers to decide, based on monitoring, whether intervention is required or if waiting is possible. This study evaluates the performance of this waiting strategy compared to a strategy of unconditional intervention at every opportunity. We built an individual-based model of conservation conflict between a manager aiming to conserve an animal population and farmers aiming to maximize yield by protecting their crop from wildlife damage. We then simulated a budget-constrained adaptive management over time applying each strategy, while accounting for uncertainty around population dynamics and around decision-making of managers and farmers. Our results showed that when the decision for the manager to intervene was based on a prediction of population trajectory, the waiting strategy performed at least as well as unconditional intervention while also allowing managers to save resources by avoiding unnecessary interventions. Under difficult budgetary constraints on managers, this waiting strategy ensured as high yields as unconditional intervention while significantly improving conservation outcomes by compensating managers' lack of resources with the benefits accrued over waiting periods. This suggests that waiting strategies are worth considering in conservation conflicts, as they can facilitate equitable management with a more efficient use of management resources, which are often limiting in biodiversity conservation.

adaptive management; conservation conflicts; decision-making modelling; individual-based modelling; Management Strategy Evaluation; timing of intervention; uncertainty

Pre-print available at:

Ecology and Society: Volume 27, Issue 3

FundersNatural Environment Research Council
Publication date30/09/2022
Publication date online31/07/2022
Date accepted by journal07/03/2022

People (2)


Professor Nils Bunnefeld

Professor Nils Bunnefeld

Professor, Biological and Environmental Sciences

Dr Brad Duthie

Dr Brad Duthie

Lecturer in Environmental Modelling, Biological and Environmental Sciences