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An appraisal of adaptive management planning and implementation in ecological restoration: case studies from the San Francisco Bay Delta, USA

Mita Nagarkar, University of Copenhagen
Karsten Raulund-Rasmussen, University of Copenhagen


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Adaptive management has been defined and redefined in the context of natural resource management, yet there are few examples of its successful application in ecological restoration. Although the 2009 Delta Reform Act now legally requires adaptive management for all restoration efforts in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, in California, USA, projects in this region still encounter problems with implementation. We used a comparative case study analysis to examine adaptive management planning and implementation both in and around the Delta, assessing not only why adaptive management is not yet well implemented, but also what changes can be made to facilitate the adaptive management approach without sacrificing scientific rigor. Adaptive management seems to be directly and indirectly affected by a variety of challenges and convoluted by ambiguity in both planning documents and practitioner’s interpretations of the concept. Addressing these challenges and ambiguities at the project level may facilitate the adaptive management process and help make it more accessible to practitioners.

Key words

adaptive management; ecological restoration; Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta; social ecological systems; tidal marsh

Copyright © 2016 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