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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Viewpoint: Successful Adaptive Management - the Integration of Research and Management

Authors
item Reever Morghan, Kimberly
item Sheley, Roger
item Svejcar, Anthony

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 20, 2005
Publication Date: March 1, 2006
Citation: Reever Morghan, K.J., Sheley, R.L., Svejcar, A.J. 2006. Viewpoint: Successful Adaptive Management - The Integration of Research and Management. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 59(2):216-219.

Interpretive Summary: Adaptive management is a way one can manage natural resources at the same time as one learns how a system works and what the best management strategies are. In other words, it allows a manager to "learn by doing". The idea of adaptive management is very popular, but it is difficult to find published examples of its successes or clear guidelines showing how it should be done. In this paper we offer a clear definition of adaptive management and suggestions for how it can best be done. We also offer a step-by-step guide to how to include adaptive management in a management program.

Technical Abstract: Adaptive management is a way for managers to manage in the face of uncertainty and learn by doing. Managers gain greater knowledge of their system by testing management alternatives during the management process. The term “adaptive management” is used often, but there is some confusion about exactly what adaptive management is, and managers are hard-pressed to find any clear guidelines for implementing it. As a result, managers can find the process of moving from the idea of adaptive management to the actual practice intimidating; they need a clear understanding of adaptive management before they can begin to use it. Luckily, adaptive management is not as complicated as the literature can make it appear. The process of adaptive management involves formulating management questions, selecting management techniques to test these questions, and testing these techniques on the landscape. Care is taken to measure those system responses that best tell whether the system is moving towards management objectives, and results are fed back into the management decision process. We argue that there are two strategies that managers can use to improve adaptive management success. The first is to start with a simple adaptive management plan and then add complexity over time. The second is to include researchers in the management process to benefit from their expertise in ecology, experimental design, and data analysis. While adaptive management takes time, the rewards are a stronger knowledge of the system, a management program that is scientifically valid, and a management strategy tailored to a particular site. In this paper we briefly explain adaptive management and then offer a step-by-step process for developing and implementing adaptive management. Increased understanding of adaptive management will lead to its widespread use and will ensure that more managers benefit from its strengths.

Last Modified: 8/1/2014
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