by Byron K. Williams, Fred A. Johnson
Few if any natural resource systems are completely understood and fully observed. Instead, there almost always is uncertainty about the way a system works and its status at any given time, which can limit effective management. A natural approach to uncertainty is to allocate time and effort to the collection of additional data, on the reasonable assumption that more information will facilitate better understanding and lead to better management. But the collection of more data, either through observation or investigation, requires time and effort that often can be put to other conservation activities. An important question is whether the use of limited resources to improve understanding is justified by the resulting potential for improved management. In this paper we address directly a change in value from new information collected through investigation. We frame the value of information in terms of learning through the management process itself, as well as learning through investigations that are external to the management process but add to our base of understanding. We provide a conceptual framework and metrics for this issue, and illustrate them with examples involving Florida scrub-jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens).