Science And Structured Decision Making: Fulfilling The Promise Of Adaptive Management For Imperiled Species


Abstract Scientists and policy makers have shown great industry in popularizing the concept of adaptive management for imperiled species, principally by promulgating slightly varying, multi-step adaptive-management cycles. Thirty years after the appearance of adaptive management in the scientific literature, the concept has gained acceptance as a readily recognized, conceptually simple conservation-planning vehicle, despite its lackluster track record. Successful adaptive management must be implemented as a step-wise, structured approach to incorporating scientific information into decision making. This may necessitate reconsideration of the overly simplified, cartoonish version of adaptive management being presented to policy makers, resource managers, and the public. We contend that adaptive management that targets listed species represents a complex process that can be resource intensive, including in its demand for guidance from research, monitoring, and modeling, therefore requiring substantial technical and institutional capacity. That considered, adaptive management has a great potential to improve the effectiveness and efficacy of resource management actions provided it is properly implemented.

Keywords Adaptive management . Structured decision making . Best available science -

Introduction -

Effective conservation planning at the regional scale poses well-documented challenges to policy makers, resource managers, and scientists alike (Johnson et al. 1999). Planners who confront management obligations that target complex and layered ecological phenomena must navigate multiple statutory authorities and regulations, grapple with trade-offs among conservation objectives, and integrate diverse stakeholder involvement (Greig et al. 2013). Where species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act enter the equation, the complications that attend management often are multiplied (McFadden et al. 2011). In such circumstances, uncertainties regarding the needs of target species can overwhelm the management agenda, and adaptive management may be selected by default as the primary means of bringing knowledge to conservation planning. But while adaptive management can be an effective means to “learn while doing,” it complements, but does replace, a structured approach to the selection of management actions that uses the best available scientific information.

Originally Published on - February 26, 2014.

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