Topic - Adaptive Management

2015 Adaptive Management, a Personal History

The choice was made at 30,000 feet, flying over Managua, Nicaragua on the way home from a workshop in Venezuela. The workshop was about comparing differ- ent disturbed regional systems, by exploring both theory and possible management actions. It was a workshop that brought together a Russian (a grand and wonderful mathematician who, sadly, later got into trouble with Soviet authorities), Canadians, Americans, Venezuelans, Argentineans, and Europeans from different countries. We had a great meeting but were still groping for an appropriate name for the planned book.

The news was full of the recent Managua earthquake and I had just read a re- view of Bob Kate’s work that emphasized how the poor formal facilities in the city provided little help to survivors of the quake. Instead, they drew upon their extended families, and thereby mobilized the key help needed for nurture and recovery. It became help at the scale of a neighborhood. And the image of that kind of crisis and that kind of recovery acted as a metaphor for the way ecosystems and regional systems function. Suddenly the word “adaptive” popped in my mind, and the name became the one that was beautifully suited for our work- both applied and theoretical.

We used the term adaptive management for the applied aspects of these new ideas, the adaptive cycle to describe the fundamental structure and dynamics of systems and adaptive assessment for the methods. And resilience, along with panarchy (though developed much later) were the words we used that eventually captured the theoretical foundations of the core ideas—non-linearity, surprise, alternative stable states and cross-scale dynamics in space and time.

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