1978). Adaptive management aims to enhance scientific knowledge and thereby reduce uncertainties. Such uncertainties may stem from natural variability and stochastic behavior of ecosystems and the interpretation of incomplete data (Parma et al., 1998; Regan et al., 2002), as well as social and economic changes and events (e.g., demographic shifts, changes in prices and consumer demands) that affect natural resources systems. Adaptive management aims to create policies that can help organizations, managers, and other stakeholders respond to, and even take advantage of, unanticipated events (Holling, 1978; Walters, 1986). Instead of seeking precise predictions of future conditions, adaptive management recognizes the uncertainties associated with forecasting future outcomes, and calls for consideration of a range of possible future outcomes (Walters, 1986). Management policies are designed to be flexible and are subject to adjustment in an iterative, social learning process (Lee, 1999).
Adaptive management is intended to increase the ability to fashion timely responses in the face of new information and in a setting of varied stakeholder objectives and preferences. It encourages stakeholders to bound disputes and discuss them in an orderly fashion while environmental uncertainties are being investigated and better understood. Management decisions are often difficult to change because managers are subject to ordinary human failings, including a tendency to resist recognizing and learning from their own errors. In a bureaucracy, this tendency may be amplified. Adaptive management can help reduce decision-making gridlock by making it clear that decisions are provisional, that there is often no “right” or “wrong” management decision, and that modifications are expected. Adaptive management should help stakeholders, managers, and elected officials and other decision makers recognize the limits of knowledge and the need to act on imperfect information.
Some of the disappointments with past efforts in implementing adaptive management can be traced to confusion surrounding definitions. There are many dimensions of adaptive management, and the ambiguities inherent in adaptive management can result in policymakers, managers, and stakeholders developing unique definitions and expectations. The term is complex and multidisciplinary, and participants in adaptive management programs should strive to become familiar with the broad literature on the topic. It should also be recognized that adaptive management is an evolving theory and practice and that experiences to date are limited (Lee, 1999). The richness and potential of the concept, however, have drawn a great deal of attention, and its prospects for redress-