(10) Environmentalism

Environmentalism as Adaptive Management

adaptive management framework

Adaptative Management

Adaptive management takes a holistic and systems approach in an effort to manage resources in complex ecosystems, emphasizing ongoing experimentation and continual learning. Since developing in the early 1970s, it has been defined in various ways across different jurisdictions and ecosystems.


Generally, its practices resemble scientific methods, although some key differences do exist. Adaptive management integrates uncertainty: specifically, it assumes that ecosystems evolve with multiple equilibriums.Its methods of experimentation also differ. In particular, it is done at a management scale (thousands of hectares) without strict controls, rather than within a controlled experiment of, say, a few square meters. Adaptive management assumes ecological and economic systems are integrated and coevolved. This requires decision makers to remain open and flexible—to receive, understand, and respond to positive or negative signals in the physical and social environment and to change management responses accordingly.

Adaptive management is most commonly employed as a way to oversee ecosystems such as fisheries, forests, and wildlife. The concept was first developed by C. S. Holling and Carl J. Walters at the University of British Columbia (Canada) in the 1970s; later, it was further developed at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, Austria, while Holling was director of the institute.

Source: Wikipedia

Adaptive management(AM), also known asadaptive resource management(ARM), is a structured,iterativeprocess of robustdecision makingin the face ofuncertainty, with an aim to reducing uncertainty over time viasystem monitoring. In this way, decision making simultaneously meets one or more resource management objectives and, either passively or actively, accrues information needed to improve future management. Adaptive management is a tool which should be used not only to change a system, but also to learn about the system (Holling 1978). Because adaptive management is based on a learning process, it improves long - run management outcomes. The challenge in using the adaptive management approach lies in finding the correct balance between gaining knowledge to improve management in the future and achieving the best short - term outcome based on current knowledge (Allan & Stankey 2009).


·         1Objectives

·         2Features

·         3History

·         4Use in environmental practices

·         5Application to environmental projects and programs

·         6Tools and guidance for conservation practitioners

·         7Use in other practices as a tool for sustainability

·         8General resources

·         9See also

·         10References


There are a number of scientific and social processes which are vital components of adaptive management, including:

1.     Management is linked to appropriate temporal and spatial scales

2.     Management retains a focus on statistical power and controls

3.     Use of computer models to build synthesis and an embodied ecological consensus

4.     Use of embodied ecological consensus to evaluate strategic alternatives

5.     Communication of alternatives to political arena for negotiation of a selection

The achievement of these objectives requires an open management process which seeks to include past, present and futurestakeholders. Adaptive management needs to at least maintainpolitical openness, but usually aims to create it. Adaptive management must therefore be ascientificand social process. It must focus on the development of newinstitutionsand institutional strategies in balance withscientific hypothesisand experimental frameworks (resilliance.org).

Adaptive management can proceed as eitherpassive adaptive managementoractive adaptive management, depending on how learning takes place. Passive adaptive management values learning only insofar as it improves decision outcomes (i.e. passively), as measured by the specified utility function. In contrast, active adaptive management explicitly incorporates learning as part of the objective function, and hence, decisions which improve learning are valued over those which do not(Holling 1978; Walters 1986). In both cases, as new knowledge is gained, the models are updated and optimal management strategies are derived accordingly. Thus, while learning occurs in both cases, it is treated differently. Often, deriving actively adaptive policies is technically very difficult, which prevents it being more commonly applied.


Key features of both passive and active adaptive management are:

·         Iterative decision-making (evaluating results and adjusting actions on the basis of what has been learned)

·         Feedbackbetween monitoring and decisions (learning)

·         Explicit characterization of system uncertainty through multi-model inference

·         Bayesian inference

$1·         Embracingriskand uncertainty as a way of building understanding

Adaptive management is particularly applicable for systems in which learning via experimentation is impractical. However, any one of five process failures can seriously compromise effective adaptive management decision making (Elzinga et al. 1998; Alana & Michael, 2009):

·         The monitoring is never completed.

·         The monitoring data are not analyzed and cannot ensure it's definitely accurate.

·         The analyzed results are not conclusive.

·         The analyzed results (Boormann et al. 1999).


The use of adaptive management techniques can be traced back to peoples from ancient civilisations. For example, theYappeople of Micronesia have been using adaptive management techniques to sustain high population densities in the face of resource scarcity for thousands of years (Falanruw 1984). In using these techniques, the Yap people have altered their environment creating, for example, coastal mangrove depressions and seagrass meadows to support fishing and termite resistant wood (Stankey and Shinder 1997).

The origin of the adaptive management concept can be traced back to ideas of scientific management pioneered byFrederick Taylorin the early 1900s (Haber 1964). While the term ‘adaptive management’ evolved in natural resource management workshops through decision makers, managers and scientists focussing on building simulation models to uncover key assumptions and uncertainties (Bormannet al.1999).

Two ecologists at TheUniversity of British Columbia,C.S Holling(1978) and C.J Walters (1986) further developed the adaptive management approach as they distinguished between passive and active adaptive management practice.Kai Lee, notable Princeton physicist, expanded upon the approach in the late 1970s and early 1980s while pursuing a post-doctorate degree at UCBerkeley. The approach was further developed at theInternational Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)inVienna,Austria, while C.S. Holling was director of the Institute. In 1992, Hilbourne described three learning models for federal land managers, around which adaptive management approaches could be developed, these are reactive, passive and active.

Adaptive management has probably been most frequently applied in Yap,AustraliaandNorth America, initially applied infisherymanagement, but received more broad application in the 1990s and 2000s. One of the most successful applications of adaptive management has been in the area of waterfowl harvest management in North America, most notably for themallard(Johnson et al., 1993; Nichols et al., 2007).

Adaptive management in a conservation project and program context can trace its roots back to at least the early 1990s, with the establishment of theBiodiversity Support Program(BSP) in 1989. BSP was aUSAID-funded consortium ofWWF,The Nature Conservancy(TNC), andWorld Resources Institute(WRI). Its Analysis and Adaptive Management Program sought to understand the conditions under which certain conservation strategies were most effective and to identify lessons learned across conservation projects. When BSP ended in 2001, TNC andFoundations of Success(FOS, a non-profit which grew out of BSP) continued to actively work in promoting adaptive management for conservation projects and programs. The approaches used includedConservation by Design(TNC) andMeasures of Success(FOS).

In 2004, theConservation Measures Partnership(CMP) – which includes several former BSP members – developed acommon set of standards and guidelinesfor applying adaptive management to conservation projects and programs.

Use in environmental practices

Applying adaptive management in a conservation project or program involves the integration of project/program design, management, and monitoring to systematically test assumptions in order to adapt and learn. The three components of adaptive management in environmental practice are:

·         Testing Assumptionsis about systematically trying different actions to achieve a desired outcome. It is not, however, a random trial-and-error process. Rather, it involves using knowledge about the specific site to pick the best known strategy, laying out the assumptions behind how that strategy will work, and then collecting monitoring data to determine if the assumptions hold true.

·         Adaptationinvolves changing assumptions and interventions to respond to new or different information obtained through monitoring and project experience.

·         Learningis about explicitly documenting a team’s planning and implementation processes and its successes and failures for internal learning as well as learning across the conservation community. This learning enables conservation practitioners to design and manage projects better and avoid some of the perils others have encountered (Stankey et al. 2005).Learning about a managed system is only useful in cases where management decisions are repeated (Rout et al. 2009).

Application to environmental projects and programs

Open Standards for the Practice of Conservationlay out 5 main steps to an adaptive management project cycle (see Figure 1). TheOpen Standardsrepresent a compilation and adaptation of best practices and guidelines across several fields and across several organizations within the conservation community. Since the release of the initialOpen Standards(updated in 2007), thousands of project teams from conservation organizations (e.g., TNC, Rare, and WWF), local conservation groups, and donors alike have begun applying theseOpen Standardsto their work. In addition, several CMP members have developed training materials and courses to help apply the Standards.

Some recent write-ups of adaptive management in conservation include: wildlife protection (SWAP, 2008), forests ecosystem protection (CMER, 2010), coastal protection and restoration (LACPR, 2009), natural resource management (water, land and soil), species conservation especially, fish conservation from overfishing (FOS, 2007) and climate change (DFG, 2010). In addition, some other examples follow:

·         In 2006-2007, FOS worked with The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to develop an evaluation system help NFWF gauge impact across the various coral reef habitat and species conservation projects;

·         In 2007, FOS worked with the Ocean Conservancy (OC) to evaluate the effectiveness of this Scorecard in helping to end overfishing in domestic fisheries.

·         Between1999-2004, FOS worked for WWF’s Asian Rhino and Elephant Action Strategy (AREAS) Program to ensure that Asian elephants and rhinos thrive in secure habitats within their historical range and in harmony with people.

·         The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is developing and implementing adaptation strategies to help protect, restore and manage fish and wildlife, with the understanding that some level of climate change will occur and that it will have profound effects on Massachusetts habitats.

·         The Adaptive Management program was created by CMR to provide science-based recommendations and technical information to assist the Forest Practices Board. In April 2010, the Forest Practices Adaptive Management Annual Science Conference was held in Washington.

·         In 2009, The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration (LACPR) Technical Report has been developed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) according to adaptive management process.


Tools and guidance for conservation practitioners

The following resources offer guidance on designing and planning conservation projects (Steps 1 and 2 of theOpen Standards), as well as more general guidance on the adaptive management process.
Step 1 Conceptualize (Describing the Project’s Context)

·         IUCN-CMP Unified Classifications of Direct Threats and Conservation Actions: A standardized taxonomy of direct threats to biodiversity and conservation actions that helps conservation teams speak a common language across projects to facilitate learning.

·         Using Conceptual Models to Document a Situation Analysis: A guide that explains how to build a conceptual model to clearly portray what drives threats to biodiversity within a project site.

·         Instruction Manual for completing Step 1 of the WWF Standards – Define: An online course manual to walk users through the conceptualization phase of the adaptive management project cycle.

Step 2 Plan Actions and Monitoring

·         Using Results Chains to Improve Strategy Effectiveness: A guide that explains how to build results chains – a tool for clarifying a project team’s assumptions about how their actions will contribute to reducing threats and conserving biodiversity.

·         Instruction Manual for completing Step 2 of the WWF Standards – Design: An online course manual used by WWF’s Online Campus to walk users through the actions and monitoring plan phase of the adaptive management project cycle.

Use in other practices as a tool for sustainability

Adaptive management as a systematic process for improving environmental management policies and practices is the traditional application however, the adaptive management framework can also be applied to other sectors seekingsustainabilitysolutions such as business and community development.Adaptive management as a strategy emphasizes the need to change with the environment and to learn from doing. Adaptive management applied to ecosystems makes overt sense when considering ever changing environmental conditions. The flexibility and constant learning of an adaptive management approach is also a logical application for organizations seeking sustainability methodologies. Businesses pursuing sustainability strategies would employ an adaptive management framework to ensure that the organization is prepared for the unexpected and geared for change. By applying an adaptive management approach the business begins to function as an integrated system adjusting and learning from a multi-faceted network of influences not just environmental but also, economic and social (Dunphy, Griffths, & Benn, 2007). The goal of any sustainable organization guided by adaptive management principals must be to engage in active learning to direct change towards sustainability (Verine, 2008). This “learning to manage by managing to learn”(Bormann BT, 1993) will be at the core of a sustainable business strategy.

Sustainable community development requires recognition of the relationship between environment, economics and social instruments within the community. An adaptive management approach tocreating sustainable community policy and practicealso emphasizes the connection and confluence of those elements. Looking into the cultural mechanisms which contribute to a community value system often highlights the parallel to adaptive management practices, “with [an] emphasis on feedback learning, and its treatment of uncertainty and unpredictability”(Berkes, Colding, & Folke, 2000).Often this is the result of indigenous knowledge and historical decisions ofsocieties deeply rooted in ecological practices. (Berkes, Colding, & Folke, 2000). By applying an adaptive management approach to community development the resulting sysems can develop built in sustainable practice as explained by the Environmental Advisory Council (2002), “active adaptive management views policy as a set of experiments designed to reveal processes that build or sustain resilience. It requires, and facilitates, a social context with flexible and open institutions and multi-level governance systems that allow forlearning and increase adaptive capacity without foreclosing future development options” ( p. 1121).

In an ever changing world, adaptive management appeals to many practices seeking sustainable solutions by offering a framework for decision making that proposes to support a sustainable future which, “conserves and nurtures the diversity — of species, of human opportunity, of learning institutions and of economic options”(The Environmental Advisory Council, 2002, p. 1121).

General resources

Information and guidance on the entire adaptive management process is available from CMP members’ websites and other online sources:

·         The Conservation Measures Partnership’sOpen Standards for the Practice of Conservationprovide general guidance and principles for good adaptive management in conservation.

·         Miradi Adaptive Management Software for Conservation Projectsis user friendly software developed through a joint venture between CMP andBenetech. The software walks conservation teams through each step of the Open Standards.

·         Foundations of Success (FOS)ResourcesandTrainingweb pages list reference materials on adaptive management and monitoring and evaluation, as well as information about online or in-person courses in adaptive management.

·         The Nature Conservancy’sConservation Action Planning (CAP) Resourcespage includes detailed guidance and tools for implementing the CAP adaptive management process. See also TNC’sCAP Standards.

·         The Wildlife Conservation Society’sLiving Landscapespage contains extensive guidance materials on WCS’s approach to adaptive management.

·         WWF's web page on theWWF Standards of Conservation Project and Programme Managementcontains detailed guidance, resources, and tools for the steps in WWF's adaptive management process.

·         Measures of Success: Designing, Managing, and Monitoring Conservation and Development Projects, written in 1998 by Richard Margoluis and Nick Salafsky, was one of the first detailed manuals about applying adaptive management to conservation projects. Also available inSpanish.

·         Foundations of Success (FOS)[1]web pages list Asian Rhino and Elephant Program Evaluation in 2004.

·         Foundations of Success (FOS)[2]web pages list National Fish & Wildlife Foundation’s Coral Fund in 2007.

·         Foundations of Success (FOS)[3]web pages list Ocean Conservancy’s Overfishing Scorecard in 2007.

·         The Department of Fish and Game(DFG)[4]web pages list Adapting to Climate Change programme.

·         U.S. Army Corps of Engineers[5]web pages list Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Final Technical Report in 2009.

·         Washington State Department of Natural Resource(CMR)[6]web pages list Forest Practices Adaptive Management Program in 2010.

See also

·         Conservation biology

·         Decision Theory

·         Ecology

·         Fisheries

·         Forestry

·         Optimization (mathematics)

·         Operations research

·         Uncertainty


·         Bormann, B.T.; Wagner, F.H.; Wood, G., Algeria, j.; Cunningham, P.G.; Brooks, M.H.; Friesema, P.; Berg, J.; Henshaw,J (1999).Ecological Stewardship: A common reference for ecosystem management. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

·         Williams, Byron K.; Robert C. Szaro; Carl D. Shapiro (2007).Adaptive Management: The U.S. Department of the Interior Technical Guide. US Department of the Interior.ISBN 1-4113-1760-2.

·         Holling, C. S. (ed.)(1978).Adaptive Environmental Assessment and Management. Chichester: Wiley.ISBN 0-471-99632-7.

·         Falanrue, M.People pressure and management of limited resources on Yap(in McNeely, J.A.; Miller, K.R (eds)). Washington DC: The Smithsonian Institution Press.

·         Walters, C.J. (1986).Adaptive Management of Renewable Resources. New York, NY: Mc Graw Hill.ISBN 0-02-947970-3.

·         Lee, Kai N. (1993).Compass and Gyroscope: Integrating Science and Politics for the Environment. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.ISBN 1-55963-197-X.

·         Walters, Carl (1986).Adaptive Management of Renewable Resources. New York: Macmillan.ISBN 0-02-947970-3.

·         Argyris, Chris; Donald A. Schön (1978).Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley.ISBN 0-201-00174-8.

·         Gunderson, Lance H.; C. S. Holling; Stephen S. Light (eds.) (1995).Barriers and Bridges to the Renewal of Ecosystems and Institutions. New York: Columbia University Press.ISBN 0-231-10102-3.

·         Margoluis, Richard; Nick Salafsky (1998).Measures of Success: Designing, Managing, and Monitoring Conservation and Development Projects. Washington, D.C: Island Press.ISBN 978-1-55963-612-4.

·         Schön, Donald A. (1984).The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think In Action. New York: Basic Books.ISBN 978-0-465-06878-4.

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·         Johnson, F.A.; Williams, B.K.; Nichols, J.D.; Hines, J.El; Kendall, W.L.; Smith, G.W.; and Caithamer, D.F. (1993). "Developing an adaptive management strategy for harvesting waterfowl in North America".Trans N Am Wildl Nat Resour Conf(58): 565–583.

·         Hilbourne, R (1992). "Can fisheries agencies learn from experience?".Fisheries4(17): 6–14.

·         Nichols, J.D.; Runge, M.C.; Johnson, F.A.; and Williams, B.K. (2007)."Adaptive harvest management of North American waterfowl populations: a brief history and future prospects".Journal of Ornithology148(148): 343.doi:10.1007/s10336-007-0256-8.

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·         Johnson, F.A.; and Williams, B.K. (1999)."Protocol and practice in the adaptive management of waterfowl harvests.".Conservation Ecology3(8).

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·         Marmorek, D.R.; D.C.E. Robinson, C. Murray and L. Grieg (2006).Enabling Adaptive Forest Management. National Commission on Science for Sustainable Forestry. p. 94 pp.

·         Murray, Carol; and David Marmorek (2003)."Adaptive management and ecological restoration". In in Peter Friederici (ed.),.Ecological Restoration of Southwestern Ponderosa Pine Forests. Washington, D.C.: Island Press. pp. 417–428.ISBN 1-55963-652-1.

·         Peterman, Randall M.; and Calvin N. Peters (1998)."Decision analysis: taking uncertainties into account in forest resource management". In in Vera Sit and Brenda Taylor (eds).,.Statistical Methods for Adaptive Management Studies. Victoria, B.C.: B.C. Ministry of Forests. pp. 105–127.ISBN 0-7726-3512-9.

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·         Salzer, D.; Salafsky, N. (2006)."Allocating resources between taking action, assessing status, and measuring effectiveness of conservation actions".Natural Areas Journal26(3): 310–316.doi:10.3375/0885-8608(2006)26[310:ARBTAA]2.0.CO;2.

·         Stankey, George H; Roger N. Clark and Bernard T. Bormann (2005).Adaptive management of natural resources: theory, concepts, and management institutions. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-654. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. p. 73 p.

·         Stem, C..; Margoluis, R.; Salafsky, N.; Brown, M. (2005)."Monitoring and evaluation in conservation: A review of trends and approaches".Conservation Biology19(2): 295–309.doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2005.00594.x.

·         Virine, Lev; and Michael Trumper (2008).Project Decisions: The Art and Science. Vienna, VA: Management Concepts.ISBN 978-1-56726-217-9.

·         Elzinga, C.L., D. W. Salzer, J. W. Willoughby (1998).Measuring and Monitoring Plant Populations. Denver, CO: Bureau of Land Management. BLM Technical Reference 1730-1.

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·         George H. Stankey, Roger N. Clark and Bernard T. Bormann (2005).Adaptive Management of Natural Resources: Theory, Concepts, and Management Institutions. Washington: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

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·         Australian Government Connected Water |url=http://www.connectedwater.gov.au/framework/adaptive_management.html%7C

·         Berkes, F., Colding, J., & Folke, C. (2000). "Rediscovery of Traditional Ecological Knowledge as Adaptive Management".Ecological Applications10(5): 1251–1262.doi:10.1890/1051-0761(2000)010[1251:ROTEKA]2.0.CO;2.

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·         Dunphy, D., Griffths, A., & Benn, S (2007).Organizational Change for Corporate Sustainability. London: Routledge.

·         The Environmental Advisory Council (2002).Resilience and Sustainable Development: Building Adaptive Capacity in a World of Transformation. stockholm: EDITA NORSTEDTS TRYCKERI AB.

·         Verine, L. (2008). "Adaptive Project Management".PM World Today10(5): 1–9.

·         Rout, T.M., Hauser, C.E., Possingham, H.P. (2009). "Optimal adaptive management for the translocation of a threatened species".Ecological Applications19(2): 515–516.doi:10.1890/07-1989.1.PMID 19323207.

·         Shea, K., Possingham, H.P., Murdoch, WW., Roush, R. (2002). "Active Adaptive Management in Insect Pest and Weed Control: Intervention with a Plan for Learning".Ecological Applications12(3): 927–936.doi:10.1890/1051-0761(2002)012[0927:AAMIIP]2.0.CO;2.


$·         Habitat management equipment and methods

·         Learning methods

·         Sustainability

·         Sustainable environmental design

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