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Adaptive Management

Adaptive management has been described variously as "learning by doing, and adapting based on what's learned," "management in the face of uncertainty, with a focus on the reduction of that uncertainty," and "management that recognizes uncertainty in its consequences and seeks to improve understanding so as to improve decision making." Whatever the description, adaptive management is seen as a systematic approach for improving natural resource management, with an emphasis on learning about management outcomes and incorporating what is learned into ongoing management. Adaptive management can be viewed as a special case of structured decision making, which deals with an important subset of decision problems for which recurrent decisions are needed and uncertainty about management impacts is high.

Center staff provide leadership, technical expertise, and coordination with the Department of the Interior on adaptive management. Staff members in SDC are the principal authors of the DOI Adaptive Management Technical Guide, which provides guidance on the use of adaptive management. They also are lead authors of the DOI Adaptive Management Applications Guide, which builds on the technical guide in providing guidance for the application of adaptive management. Together these documents present a framework for adaptive management, a discussion of technical and implementation issues, and examples of adaptive decision making in the themes of water resources, energy, climate change, and the interface between human and natural systems.

SDC staff and other experts have created a series of training videos on the use of adaptive management. These videos are available at the following link:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also hosts new video recordings of a National Conservation Training Center Course entitled "Adaptive Management: Structured Decision Making for Recurrent Decisions" at the following link:

This course is taught by various experts from the USGS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other organizations.

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