Monday, April 27, 2009

Resilience and AM

One of the interesting discussions that crops up on the 4th floor from time to time has to do with the relationship between Resilience (see Resilience Alliance for details) and Adaptive Management. This is somewhat of an intellectual debate, but it becomes highly relevant to practice when a legal document requires "Adaptive Management" be implemented by a federal agency. It becomes acutely relevant when someone says "you're doing it wrong".

My colleague and collaborator Jim Peterson describes the fundamental intellectual debate about AM as falling into two schools of thought: the North American and Australian Schools. The "North American school" developed directly from Buzz Holling's work, and evolved into it's current form through its application primarly to the Florida Everglades - Resilience Alliance is one great source of information on this perspective and the many places it has been deployed. The Collaborative Adaptive Management network is another.

The "Australian School" developed in parallel, inspired by the ideas of Buzz Holling and collaborators, but with a much greater emphasis on using quantative tools from Decision Theory. This approach is currently the focus of vigourous development by Prof. Hugh Possingham and the research facility for Applied Environmental Decision Analysis as well as many scientists at the USGS. The USGS folks have also one of the best examples of an "Australian School" AM in the North American Waterfowl Harvest Management plan.

So - what, if anything, is the difference between the two schools of thought? I believe that the differences are rather small, but those small differences may have significant consequences. First, the North American school requires (insists? believes?) that Adaptive Management uses management actions as experiments, and that building resilience is the goal. This is certainly Holling's intent in his original writing, and thus these two components of experimentation and resilience echo strongly in projects like the Florida Everglades and Glen Canyon. The Platte River Recovery Implementation Project is also focused on experimentation and resilience building. To put one's finger right on the difference - the Australian school does not require these two things, although they are certainly allowed. Otherwise I think they're pretty much the same.

I plan to write a bunch more about these differences and their consequences, but I wanted to get my views up now for a variety of reasons.

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