inform the Restoration Plan adaptive assessment process. These documents, together with miscellaneous reports and several meetings between the CROGEE and Restoration Plan personnel, form the basis for the discussion that follows.

Adaptive management is a general concept that could refer to a broad range of approaches to achieving ecosystem restoration. However, the minimal elements of any truly adaptive management scheme include (1) clear restoration goals and expectations, (2) a sound conceptualization of the system, (3) an effective process for learning from future management actions, and (4) explicit feedback mechanisms for refining and improving management based on the learning process2. The extent to which the Restoration Plan will meet the restoration goals and expectations rests in large part on a well-designed framework for creating and supporting these four elements. After a brief comparison of active and passive adaptive management, the Restoration Plan adaptive assessment strategy is examined from these perspectives. Overall, the conceptual planning for the Restoration Plan and the Restoration Coordination, and Verification (RECOVER) process are well grounded in the theory and practice of adaptive management. Likewise, current scientific theory and information, for the most part, have been well applied in formulating a strategy for the Restoration Plan Monitoring and Assessment Plan. Nevertheless, in moving towards implementation, there are some specific actions that can be taken to strengthen the monitoring and assessment program with respect to all four elements of the adaptive assessment process, especially with respect to feedbacks between the monitoring information and decisions concerning the implementation of the Restoration Plan.


Walters and Holling (1990) defined three general ways to structure adaptive management: (1) trial-and-error, (2) active adaptive management, and (3) passive adaptive management. According to these authors, the trial-and-error or evolutionary approach (also referred to as disjointed incrementalism by Linblom, 1968) involves haphazard choices early in system management while later choices are made from the subset of choices yielding more desirable results. Active adaptive management strategies use the available data and key interrelationships to construct a range of alternative response models (scenarios) that are used to predict short-term and long-term responses based on small- to large-scale “experiments.” The combined results of scenario development and experimentation are used by policymakers to choose among alternative management options to identify the best management strategies. Passive adaptive management is based on historical information that is used to construct a “best guess” conceptual model of the system. The management choices are based on the conceptual model with the assumption that this model is a reliable reflection of the way that the system will respond. Passive adaptive management is based on only one model of the system and monitors and adjusts, while in active adaptive management a variety of alternative hypotheses are proposed, examined experimentally, and the results applied to management decisions.

The restoration strategy outlined in the Restudy abandons the idea of large-scale, management experiments with controls and replicates, opting instead for incremental implementation in which “each incremental step in the plan is viewed as an experiment


Successful application of an adaptive management framework requires more than these four elements (e.g., collaborative working relationships, trust, a champion). These elements assure that the basis for adaptive management has been established; they are thus necessary but not sufficient conditions (Holling, 1978; Walters and Holling, 1990).

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