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Unpacking “Participation” in the Adaptive Management of Social–ecological Systems: a Critical Review

Lindsay C Stringer, University of Manchester
Andrew J Dougill, University of Leeds
Evan Fraser, University of Leeds
Klaus Hubacek, University of Leeds
Christina Prell, University of Sheffield
Mark S Reed, University of Leeds


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Adaptive management has the potential to make environmental management more democratic through the involvement of different stakeholders. In this article, we examine three case studies at different scales that followed adaptive management processes, critically reflecting upon the role of stakeholder participation in each case. Specifically, we examine at which stages different types of stakeholders can play key roles and the ways that each might be involved. We show that a range of participatory mechanisms can be employed at different stages of the adaptive cycle, and can work together to create conditions for social learning and favorable outcomes for diverse stakeholders. This analysis highlights the need for greater reflection on case study research in order to further refine participatory processes within adaptive management. This should not only address the shortcomings and successes of adaptive management as a form of democratic environmental governance, but should also unpack the links between science, institutions, knowledge, and power.

Key words

adaptive management; democratic governance; participation; stakeholder involvement

Copyright © 2006 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087