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A New Paradigm for Adaptive Management

Lucy Rist, Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeň University
Adam Felton, Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Lars Samuelsson, Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Umeň University, Sweden
Camilla Sandstr÷m, Department of Political Science, Umeň University, Sweden
Ola Rosvall, Rosvall Forest Consulting AB


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Uncertainty is a pervasive feature in natural resource management. Adaptive management, an approach that focuses on identifying critical uncertainties to be reduced via diagnostic management experiments, is one favored approach for tackling this reality. While adaptive management is identified as a key method in the environmental management toolbox, there remains a lack of clarity over when its use is appropriate or feasible. Its implementation is often viewed as suitable only in a limited set of circumstances. Here we restructure some of the ideas supporting this view, and show why much of the pessimism around AM may be unwarranted. We present a new framework for deciding when AM is appropriate, feasible, and subsequently successful. We thus present a new paradigm for adaptive management that shows that there are no categorical limitations to its appropriate use, the boundaries of application being defined by problem conception and the resources available to managers. In doing so we also separate adaptive management as a management tool, from the burden of failures that result from the complex policy, social, and institutional environment within which management occurs.

Key words

Experimental management; experimentation; management; natural resource; participation; stakeholder; uncertainty

Copyright © 2013 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