Over the past five years, we’ve been working with amazing collaborators at the University of St Andrews and around the world on the potential Population Consequences of Disturbance (PCoD). This week we’re delighted to announce a new paper exploring how to determine when PCoD models might be helpful in assessing the impacts of noise on marine mammals. 

Fig 1. A decision framework to identify when population level assessments might be necessary to understand the impact of disturbance on a population. From Wilson et al. 2019.

SMRU Consulting and our collaborators at the Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling (CREEM), led by Catriona Harris are delighted to announce the release of our latest (open access) publication ‘A decision framework to identify populations that are most vulnerable to the population level effects of disturbance’ (link below).

This is part of our PCOD+ project (sponsored by the Office of Naval Research), which is focused on overcoming the most important impediments that have limited the implementation of the PCoD (population consequences of disturbance) framework. The PCoD Decision Framework is intended to be used to aid the development of PCoD models for different marine mammal populations exposed to the same source of disturbance. This framework is also intended to be suitable for providing advice on the most appropriate form of PCoD model for these populations, based on likely data availability and model sensitivity.

This work presents a decision tree framework (Fig. 1) with associated R code (available in the Supplementary Materials), which we hope will provide a user friendly and time-efficient method to identify when detailed population-level assessments are required to understand potential impacts of disturbance on marine mammals, or indeed other taxa. Within the supplementary materials is a fully worked marine mammal case study, investigating potential population level disturbance of various marine mammal populations in the vicinity of naval training activities.

This latest publication compliments previously published decision trees on when you should use the PCoD model, and how should you use PCoD (Pirotta et al., 2018). For example, Fig. 2 in that paper guides the user through selection of the most suitable PCoD model based on the user’s data availability. 

Fig 2. Decision tree to guide selection of the most suitable Population Consequences of Disturbance (PCoD) model for a given population, given data availability. Decision points are represented by diamonds, and possible outcomes by rectangles. Figure taken from Pirotta et al. (2018)

These simple to use decision trees provide decision makers, managers and ecologists the tools to prioritise research efforts and direct funding to those species which are highlighted as most in need of assessment and conservation.





Pirotta E, Booth CG, Costa DP, Fleishman E, Kraus SD, Lusseau D, Moretti D, New LF, Schick RS, Schwarz LK &Simmons SE. Understanding the population consequences of disturbance. Ecology and Evolution. 2018; 8(19):9934-46. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.4458

Wilson LJ, Harwood J, Booth CG, Joy R, Harris CM. A decision framework to identify populations that are most vulnerable to the population level effects of disturbance. Conservation Science and Practice. 2019; e149. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/csp2.149