January 01, 2012

Adaptive Resource Management in Complex Systems

Itzchak E. Kornfeld

What are the systemic implications of saving endangered species, reallocating fresh water, or limiting emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? Regulatory agencies and environmental and conservation communities can generally provide qualitative assessments. However, deeper critical analysis is required to more accurately determine the extent to which efforts to affect these ecosystems are working and to diagnose why some actions succeed while others do not. In recent years, there has been a convergence of thinking among regulatory agencies and environmental and conservation organizations as to how to better assess, plan, and implement these actions. One method that has emerged is adaptive resource management (ARM), also known as adaptive management. ARM is a structured, iterative process of optimal decision making in the face of uncertainty. It is aimed at reducing ambiguity over time via systematic monitoring, focused on one or more resource objectives, that accumulates data required to improve future management. Ecosystem adaptive management is based on a learning process designed to improve long-run management outcomes. However, the ARM process must meet the challenge of achieving the proper equilibrium between enlarging one’s knowledge base and making governance decisions aimed at achieving an optimal short-term outcome based on contemporary knowledge.

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