Insights taken from an Understanding of Variation: (i) stability versus change

Simon Black –

As scientists we are used to data analyses providing information, but it is less common to see data analysis directly informing management decision-making. Experience of using and developing control charts which has been established over the past eighty years, can provide methods which will help the conservation manager to build a more complete understanding and therefore make better decisions. An example suggested by Black (2015) shows how the increasing trend in manatee deaths, although potentially attributed to a growing manatee population, can also be identified to occur in three separate stages. The stabilisation of counts at each stage indicate a new ‘status quo’ has been established. In this case the introduction of watercraft speed limits established a new ‘status quo’.

manatee data

In other words, increases in manatee mortality are not inevitable if management decisions can be made which stabilise and improve the system – for example can other waterway management measures be implemented?


Black S.A. (2015) System behaviour charts inform an understanding of biodiversity recovery. International Journal of Ecology, 2015 (787925): pp6

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