evaluation of the CESI science program must be done with an adaptive management approach in mind.

Adaptive management fundamentally is learning in the midst of doing and is central to the CERP, as the restoration plan is an outline of activities that will be filled in with details as experience informs subsequent steps. Just as adaptive management is dependent upon integration of scientific knowledge into the ongoing processes of project planning, evaluation, construction, and operation, continual research and synthesis are integral to adaptive management. Given an unknown future, restoration will require a research framework that continues to develop an understanding of the ever-changing dynamics between environment and society and between the ecosystem and hydrological processes. This will require a continuous cycle of not just monitoring and experimentation, but also regular and frequent synthesis of the findings. Monitoring, experimentation, and synthesis together can increase the reliability of current knowledge, address information gaps and surprises, provide new knowledge to understand emerging as well as old problems, and speed up the process of adaptive management (Holling et al., 1998).

Walters and Holling (1990) describe three adaptive management approaches (Box 5–1): (1) trial-and-error, (2) active adaptive management, and (3) passive adaptive management. The CERP relies on a passive adaptive management approach (Aumen, 2001; Applebaum, 2002), although some have classified the Everglades restoration as “ecosystem management” (Harwell, 1998; Blumenthal and Jannick, 2000). Regardless of the specific adaptive management approach ultimately adopted for use in the CERP, the complexity and extended time for implementation of the restoration necessitates that the restoration management plan be founded on four critical elements (NRC, in press) 1:

  1. clear restoration goals

  2. sound conceptualization of the system

  3. effective processes for learning from future actions

  4. explicit feedback mechanisms for refining and improving management based on the learning process

Science contributes to elements 1 and 4 and is the foundation upon which elements 2 and 3 are based. There is a long history of scientific input towards the identification of restoration goals and the conceptualization of ecosystem function. Effective processes for learning and for integration of learned knowledge into management (also termed feedback mechanisms) have proved to be more challenging. The following sections describe the role of science within this fundamental restoration management framework and evaluate the contributions of the CESI program to this process in South Florida.


It is important to note that successful application of an adaptive management framework requires more than just these four elements (e.g., collaborative working relationships, trust). These four elements, however, assure that the basis for adaptive management has been established.

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