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Scenario planning offers a structured way of coping with complex systems and outcomes through learning and preparing for change


policy instrument in the management of major river systems, including the Columbia (Lee 1993), Colorado (Walters and others 2000), San Pedro and the Apalachicola- Chattahoochee-Flint River (Richter and others 2003), and rivers in Kruger National Park (Rogers and Biggs 1999) and the Everglades (Walters, Gunderson, and Holling 1992).

  • e key is identifying management-relevant uncertainties that underlie policies and then

evaluating the management alternatives through scientific assessment, modeling, and if necessary, experimental management.

Successful adaptive management requires time, resources for learning, and social sup- port (Richter and others 2003; Walters 1986). Consequently, it often focuses on building ecological resilience, establishing knowledge for ecological management by working to integrate knowledge from many different scientific and local sources, and developing con- nections between the system being managed and its larger context (Berkes, Colding, and Folke 2003).

In an example of adaptive management Carpenter (2002) describes how a partner- ship of university researchers and state ecological managers collaborated to design and operate a management experiment to improve water quality in Lake Mendota, Wisconsin, by altering the fish community dynamics in the lake to increase predation of algae. e experiment was made possible by a history of collaboration between lake managers and academics and supported by the availability of decades of lake monitoring.

Scenario planning. Many problems related to management of water for agriculture and other ecosystem services are too complex and involve too many interest groups to be solved through narrowly focused experiments or computer model projections. Scenario planning offers a structured way of coping with complex systems and outcomes through learning and preparing for change (Peterson, Cumming, and Carpenter 2003; MEA 2005c). Decisions about how, when, and where to act are typically based on expectations for the future. When the world is highly unpredictable and when we are working from a limited range of experiences, our expectations may be proved wrong. Scenario planning provides a means to examine these expectations through a set of contrasting plausible futures described though a set of narratives. It has been applied in recent assessments such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and the International Assessment on Agricultural Science and Technology for Development.

Ideally, scenarios should build understanding of the potential costs and benefits of al- ternative futures. Scenario planning integrates diverse qualitative and quantitative informa- tion into a set of plausible narratives to explore policy-relevant futures. A scenario planning process functions similarly to an adaptive management process, but uses scenarios rather than computer models or management experiments to develop and test policy alternatives. One of the biggest shortcomings of scenario planning is the inability of participants to perceive their own assumptions (Keepin and Wynne 1984) and the potential consequences of being wrong. is problem cannot be completely avoided, but more robust scenarios can be created if a wide diversity of stakeholders and perspectives are included and if the exercise is repeated several times.

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