eCite Digital Repository

A taxonomy and treatment of uncertainty for ecology and conservation biology


Regan, HM and Colyvan, M and Burgman, MA, A taxonomy and treatment of uncertainty for ecology and conservation biology, Ecological Applications, 12, (2) pp. 618-628. ISSN 1051-0761 (2002) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1890/1051-0761(2002)012[0618:ATATOU]2.0.CO;2


Uncertainty is pervasive in ecology where the difficulties of dealing with sources of uncertainty are exacerbated by variation in the system itself. Attempts at classifying uncertainty in ecology have, for the most part, focused exclusively on epistemic uncertainty. In this paper we classify uncertainty into two main categories: epistemic uncertainty (uncertainty in determinate facts) and linguistic uncertainty (uncertainty in language). We provide a classification of sources of uncertainty under the two main categories and demonstrate how each impacts on applications in ecology and conservation biology. In particular, we demonstrate the importance of recognizing the effect of linguistic uncertainty, in addition to epistemic uncertainty, in ecological applications. The significance to ecology and conservation biology of developing a clear understanding of the various types of uncertainty, how they arise and how they might best be dealt with is highlighted. Finally, we discuss the various general strategies for dealing with each type of uncertainty and offer suggestions for treating compounding uncertainty from a range of sources.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Mathematical Sciences
Research Group:Applied mathematics
Research Field:Biological mathematics
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the environmental sciences
UTAS Author:Colyvan, M (Dr Mark Colyvan)
ID Code:25948
Year Published:2002
Web of Science® Times Cited:535
Deposited By:Philosophy
Deposited On:2002-08-01
Last Modified:2003-05-13

Repository Staff Only: item control page