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Agriculture, water, and ecosystems: avoiding the costs of going too far

6

complexity and variability are common, so uncertainty is high, resulting in outcomes that are unpredictable and difficult to control. Mechanisms are needed for dealing with uncer- tainty that enable proactive rather than reactive responses to change.

Two interrelated approaches, adaptive management and scenario planning (see chap- ter 3 on scenarios), have been suggested for dealing with unpredictability (figure 6.5). Adaptive management and scenario planning both examine alternative models of how the world might work and seek to develop policies that are robust to this uncertainty. What distinguishes them is that the models used in adaptive management build in management experiments. e approaches are complementary to the integrated approaches described above and can be used together.

Adaptive management. Adaptive management emphasizes learning and flexibility in man- agement institutions to cope with situations that involve unknown and uncertain ecologi- cal management tradeoffs (Walters 1986; Holling 1973; figure 6.6). Treating management policies as hypotheses rather than solutions, adaptive management has been a highly visible

  • gure 6.5

Different management approaches for dealing with uncertainty in information and the controllability of outcomes

Controllability

Controllable

Uncontrollable

Uncertainty

High

Adaptive management

Low

Maximum sustainable yield

Scenario planning

Hedging

Source: Adapted from Peterson, Cumming, and Carpenter 2003.

  • gure 6.6

Adaptive management treats policy as hypothesis and management as experiments, emphasizing learning and evaluation of interventions

Focal

of knowledge

Management

synthesis

Experimental

issues

and

models

and

management

Assessment

Policy

uncertainities

screening

267

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