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Adaptive management - "learning by doing"

Many contemporary research efforts are concentrating on creating new approaches to more closely link science, management and policy at an ecosystem level. As Jiggins (1993) points out, these efforts represent a search for a research and development model and practice which combine the features of: i) management-based experimentation and innovation; ii) natural resource system management on scales larger than individual enterprises and communities; iii) methods for bringing about capacity for action among multiple agencies and actors (with typically divergent, not to say antagonistic points of view and interests); and iv) facilitation of the social processes and organisational capacity to accomplish these. One promising initiative in this area can be seen in the area of adaptive management (or adaptive environmental assessment and management), the emerging directions of which can be seen to be developing through the integration of ecological and participatory research approaches.

Adaptive management thus focuses on learning and adapting, through partnerships of managers, scientists, and other stakeholders who learn together how to create and maintain sustainable ecosystems. It helps managers maintain flexibility in their decisions, knowing that uncertainties exist and so provides the latitude to adjust direction to improve progress towards desired outcomes. More information on the wider decision-making environment within which such approaches can flourish are provided from the adaptation and governance pages in this section, and the social learning section.