Introduction: Words matter

George Stankey, Catherine Allan

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperOther chapter contribution


The increasing complexity and uncertainty surrounding the management of natural resource systems, combined with the complex interactions that occur between those systems and people, over multiple jurisdictional and temporal scales, have revealed the limits to traditional, reductionist scientific inquiry. In response to this, there has been increasing interest in the concept of adaptive management — the purposeful and deliberate design of policies in such a way as to enhance learning as well as to inform subsequent action. Yet despite the great promise such an approach holds, experiences across multiple resource systems and social—political settings suggest that major barriers confront efforts to implement adaptive management effectively. Nonetheless, major progress is occurring. In an effort to explicate the developments taking place between the intuitive simplicity of the adaptive management concept and the elegant theoretical dispositions that have been offered in the literature, this chapter introduces a set of operational applications across a range of biophysical and institutional settings that reveal the concept's potential. Although not a handbook or set of “how to do” rules, the chapters offer important insight and principles upon which adaptive enterprises might be productively employed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdaptive Environmental Management: A Practitioner's Guide
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9781402096327
ISBN (Print)9789048127108
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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