State of the Field: Playing with Policy

Successful owl populations in CA are credited to adaptive management, from

Following our discussion of scale, management boundaries must match ecological processes which are now recognized to be dynamic and complex. This means that management must manage not for a known equilibrium, but a dialectic system full of uncertainty (Berkes 2008). Instead of attempting to predict from the instigation of a policy what the effects may be, governance should be structured to constantly evaluate the system and incorporate feedbacks. This process, known as adaptive management (also check out statements on the subject from the Resilience Alliance and US Department of Interior), provides for the co-evolution of the system and its governance to ensure that they remain an effective match.

Under adaptive management, episodes of disturbance are learning opportunities, not a signal of policy failure. Berkes (2008) describes this phenomenon: “’conservation’ is not a state of being. It is a response to a people’s perceptions about the state of their environment and its resources, and a willingness to modify their behaviors to adjust to new realities”. He goes on to say that disturbances are not only opportunities for learning, but that they are necessary for that learning to occur. Gunderson and Carpenter (2006) add that disturbance is necessary for transformational learning – the type of learning that allows for the emergence of novelty. Therefore, disturbances should be allowed to occur in order to foster community and governmental innovation. Read More