Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: New York
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Sethi SA, Dalton M. (2012) Risk measures for natural resource management: description, simulation testing and R code with fisheries examples. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 3:150-157. DOI:


Traditional measures that quantify variation in natural resource systems include both upside and downside deviations as contributing to variability, such as standard deviation or the coefficient of variation. Here we introduce three risk measures from investment theory, which quantify variability in natural resource systems by analyzing either upside or downside outcomes and typical or extreme outcomes separately: semideviation, conditional value-at-risk, and probability of ruin. Risk measures can be custom tailored to frame variability as a performance measure in terms directly meaningful to specific management objectives, such as presenting risk as harvest expected in an extreme bad year, or by characterizing risk as the probability of fishery escapement falling below a prescribed threshold. In this paper, we present formulae, empirical examples from commercial fisheries, and R code to calculate three risk measures. In addition, we evaluated risk measure performance with simulated data, and we found that risk measures can provide unbiased estimates at small sample sizes. By decomposing complex variability into quantitative metrics, we envision risk measures to be useful across a range of wildlife management scenarios, including policy decision analyses, comparative analyses across systems, and tracking the state of natural resource systems through time.