Information management and the status of hydrologic and ecological models, which are essential to a well-functioning adaptive management process, are also discussed in this chapter.


Adaptive management facilitates natural resource management or environmental restoration activities when uncertainty about the potential outcomes of management actions is present (NRC, 2007). It offers a means to proceed without a fixed design and to reduce uncertainty through the iterative refinement of management actions, ideally based on experimentation (Lee, 1999; Walters and Holling, 1990). Of the many applications of adaptive management, the most-effective ones have well-structured processes that include:

  1. management objectives that are regularly revisited and accordingly revised,

  2. a model or models of the managed system,

  3. the monitoring and evaluation of outcomes,

  4. mechanisms for incorporating what is learned into models guiding future decisions, and

  5. a collaborative process for stakeholder participation and learning (NRC, 2004).

Through effective application of such a process, decision making moves from a trial-and-error process to one of experimentation based on continuous monitoring, assessment, and reevaluation.

Since its inception, the CERP has taken an adaptive management approach to address uncertainty in the restoration. This approach is mainly passive, entailing detailed scientific analysis, planning, monitoring, and assessment, combined with feedback to restoration design and operation (see Figure 6-1). In some cases, however, active (i.e., experimental) rather than passive adaptive management may better assist in achieving restoration goals, because substantial uncertainties remain about the degree to which a resilient, self-sustaining ecosystem can be restored under the dramatically changed environment of South Florida. Opportunities for active adaptive management experiments are numerous (NRC, 2007), and the CERP’s Decompartmentalization (Decomp) project in particular is an example of a project that would likely benefit greatly from the active adaptive management approach described in Box 6-1. Opportunities also exist for incremental adaptive restoration, which was conceived by the previous committee (NRC, 2007) as a way to advance restoration in the face of contentious uncer-

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