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Adaptive management in a nutshell

Adaptive management is a way to structure and implement decision-making processes for the management of both species and natural areas. 

Basically, we ensure that issues and objectives are clearly formulated. This happens in dialogue and cooperation between relevant stakeholders, citizens, managers and researchers. This interest group will also agree on potential initiatives that could lead to fulfilment of agreed objectives. 

During the subsequent implementation of the project, which typically extends over a number of years, the group regularly monitors and evaluates and - if necessary – adjusts the actions relative to the objectives. Scientists develop modelling tools that predict how the system (for example, population development or state of nature) will respond to any initiatives. The models are also adjusted when new insights are gained.

With this approach, all parties learn during the process and uncertainties about the system and the response to initiatives are gradually narrowed down. Since all parties are involved in the whole process, there are better opportunities for building trust and gaining greater commitment.

Adaptive nature management is particularly useful in situations in which there are value-based conflicts of interest and competing needs to be solved or where there is a need to quickly reach an understanding of the effects of various management measures in relation to a desired objective.

Over the past five years, Aarhus University has been behind the development of the first adaptive species management plan in Europe. The process has yielded positive results and experiences and has generated a political-administrative desire to develop and apply the concept, both in connection with Danish nature conservancy and within international conventions on nature conservation.

An adaptive and structured approach in nature management requires new forms of cooperation and ways of thinking, and there is therefore a strong need to develop and disseminate the concept and instruct stakeholders in the use of adaptive management.