tions and other events become better understood. Careful monitoring of these outcomes both advances scientific understanding and helps adjust policies or operations as part of an iterative learning process. Adaptive management also recognizes the importance of natural variability in contributing to ecological resilience and productivity. It is not a “trial and error” process, but rather emphasizes learning while doing. Adaptive management does not represent an end in itself, but rather a means to more effective decisions and enhanced benefits. Its true measure is in how well it helps meet environmental, social, and economic goals, increases scientific knowledge, and reduces tensions among stakeholders.
The foundations of adaptive management rest in many fields, but its initial presentation as a natural resources management paradigm was in the 1970s, when it was offered as a way to help managers take action in the face of uncertainties, to reduce uncertainties, and to craft management strategies capable of responding to unanticipated events. Adaptive management is not a “one size fits all” or a “cookbook” process, as experience with the concept and its related procedures to date is limited and evolving. There are multiple views and definitions regarding adaptive management, but elements that have been identified in theory and in practice are: management objectives that are regularly revisited and accordingly revised, a model(s) of the system being managed, a range of management options, monitoring and evaluating outcomes of management actions, mechanisms for incorporating learning into future decisions, and a collaborative structure for stakeholder participation and learning. These elements have been traditionally viewed and promoted, to varying degrees, as essential to sound water resources management; adaptive management offers a framework for their integration. Implementation of adaptive management also provides the potential to respond in a timely manner to changing conditions, social objectives, and new knowledge. It can therefore help avoid costly or irreparable mistakes and unintended consequences.
The adaptive management concept is being used to varying degrees to manage water resources in several locations in the United States. For example, Congress has expressly required the use of adaptive management in the Florida Everglades ecosystem restoration program. It is a core concept of plans to restore Louisiana’s coastal ecosystems. The Corps has employed various components of the adaptive management framework in select areas, including the Upper Mississippi and the Missouri River systems. Adaptive management promotes learning by experience; but learning from mistakes is difficult for both individuals and organizations, and it may be tempting to subvert adaptive management