An enhanced adaptive management approach for remediation of legacy mercury in the South River

PLoS One. 2015 Feb 9;10(2):e0117140. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0117140. eCollection 2015.


Uncertainties about future conditions and the effects of chosen actions, as well as increasing resource scarcity, have been driving forces in the utilization of adaptive management strategies. However, many applications of adaptive management have been criticized for a number of shortcomings, including a limited ability to learn from actions and a lack of consideration of stakeholder objectives. To address these criticisms, we supplement existing adaptive management approaches with a decision-analytical approach that first informs the initial selection of management alternatives and then allows for periodic re-evaluation or phased implementation of management alternatives based on monitoring information and incorporation of stakeholder values. We describe the application of this enhanced adaptive management (EAM) framework to compare remedial alternatives for mercury in the South River, based on an understanding of the loading and behavior of mercury in the South River near Waynesboro, VA. The outcomes show that the ranking of remedial alternatives is influenced by uncertainty in the mercury loading model, by the relative importance placed on different criteria, and by cost estimates. The process itself demonstrates that a decision model can link project performance criteria, decision-maker preferences, environmental models, and short- and long-term monitoring information with management choices to help shape a remediation approach that provides useful information for adaptive, incremental implementation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Decision Support Techniques
  • Environmental Restoration and Remediation / methods
  • Humans
  • Mercury / chemistry*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Rivers / chemistry*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / chemistry


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Mercury

Grant support

This study was funded by DuPont and USACE through Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA). One author, Nancy Grosso, has an affiliation to the commercial funders of this research study (DuPont). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.