What is adaptive management?

The clearest and most succinct definition that we are aware of is given by Williams et al. (2009): ‘Adaptive management is a systematic approach for improving resource management by learning from management outcomes.’ This general goal can be implemented using a range of methods, as appropriate to each study system. Although different authors provide different advice for how to implement adaptive management, there is general agreement that the process typically involves several steps:

1. Identification of management goals in collaboration with stakeholders.

2. Specification of multiple management options, one of which can be ‘do nothing’.

3. Creation of a rigorous statistical process for interpreting how the system responds to management interventions. This stage typically involves creation of quantitative conceptual models and/or a rigorous experimental design.

4. Implementation of management action(s).

5. Monitoring of system response to management interventions (preferably on a regular basis).

6. Adjust management practice in response to results from monitoring.

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