Adaptive management of natural resources--framework and issues

J Environ Manage. 2011 May;92(5):1346-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2010.10.041. Epub 2010 Nov 13.


Adaptive management, an approach for simultaneously managing and learning about natural resources, has been around for several decades. Interest in adaptive decision making has grown steadily over that time, and by now many in natural resources conservation claim that adaptive management is the approach they use in meeting their resource management responsibilities. Yet there remains considerable ambiguity about what adaptive management actually is, and how it is to be implemented by practitioners. The objective of this paper is to present a framework and conditions for adaptive decision making, and discuss some important challenges in its application. Adaptive management is described as a two-phase process of deliberative and iterative phases, which are implemented sequentially over the timeframe of an application. Key elements, processes, and issues in adaptive decision making are highlighted in terms of this framework. Special emphasis is given to the question of geographic scale, the difficulties presented by non-stationarity, and organizational challenges in implementing adaptive management.

MeSH terms

  • Conservation of Natural Resources / methods*
  • Decision Making*
  • Environment*