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    What is Adaptive Management?

    Adaptive Management (AM), also referred to as Adaptive Resource Management (ARM), is a repetitive and structured process of making decisions in uncertain scenarios, aiming to reduce this uncertainty through monitoring the system. 

    Through adaptive management, while making a decision, you meet at least one of the objectives of adaptive management that provides information regarding the uncertainty you can use to improve the management of such a scenario. 

    How to Implement Adaptive Management?

    Adaptive management consists of six basic steps. These steps allow adaptive managers to identify their goals, set their strategies and plans, assess their assets, and adapt according to the scenario to achieve the desired outcome. 

    These six basic steps are:

    • Plan

    Creating a plan is the first and longest step in adaptive management. While creating a plan, you should keep in mind the strategies, goals, and assess the progress of your management. During this phase of adaptive management, the project leaders and stakeholders should also be identified. 

    There are two further sub-steps of planning. They are developing goals and identifying and developing linked conservation strategies. 

    • Developing Goals

    Developing goals means developing a clear idea of what your management wants to accomplish. You should identify your goals while planning so that you can track the progress of your management reaching the goal. 

    Furthermore, the goals should be linked to the project’s management. An ideal goal should be targetable, impact-oriented, and measurable. Your goal can also depend on the project’s type, for example, projects related to habitat conservation will have different goals than scientific projects. 

    For small-scale projects, though, the goal should be linked to a regional goal so that all the conservation actions are understood at a regional level. 

    • Identifying and Developing Linked Conservation Strategies

    Identifying and developing linked conservation strategies usually involves determining how and where to take the conservation actions. 

    Most conservative adaptive management involves protection, conservation, and restoration of species or habitat. You must also make sure that the strategies you plan to employ are feasible. 

    • Strategy Training and Education

    Another important aspect that many adaptive management projects overlook is strategy education and training. 

    Training and educating in the strategies you plan to employ is crucial as it generates support for the plans and confirms the authenticity of action in the future. Strategy training expounds on how the appropriate course of action will be taken. 

    • Develop Your Strategies and Assessment Plans

    Adaptive management necessitates determining how you will carry out the project or operation. It also includes every detail of every phase of the project, so it is essential that you plan out the entire project beforehand. 

    Ideally, you should always be evaluating and assessing plans and strategies that you can employ. You should be looking for the downsides of your plans and figure out a solution for them. if there is no solution for that downside, it means that you need to change or improve your strategy. 

    You must also make sure that you continuously assess and analyze your project’s progress. This allows you to track the progress of the adaptive management project and provides you with valuable insights upon which you can capitalize and take benefit from. 

    All in all, you as an adaptive management project manager, should plan a regular schedule for assessments. 

    • Executing Your Plans and Strategies

    This step is the start of your adaptive management project. It involves implementing and developing your workplace for the project or operation. In this step, the course of action you have planned in step one begins to take place on the site. 

    • Assessment 

    As we have discussed before, assessment is a crucial part of any adaptive management project, whether you are planning or executing your plans. 

    In this step, you generally determine how your investments have so far led to the outcomes and goals of your project. You monitor your current plans, analyze them, and confirm their validity. 

    After you have assessed or monitored the plan, you should critically evaluate the downsides of the plan and how you can rectify them.

    In a nutshell, you track your project’s progress and determine what needs to be done. 

    • Learn and Share

    In the fourth step, you learn from the downsides of your current plan and share it with other similar practitioners. 

    This allows other practitioners to avoid pitfalls and ensure the success of their adaptive management projects. Essentially, this step is for the general benefit of adaptive management projects. 

    • Adapting to the Information Gathered

    One of the main objectives of adaptive management is to adapt to the scenarios and the information gathered. 

    You must make sure that your project adapts and evolves as you learn more about the progress and success of the plan. There is one additional sub-step in this step:

    • Adapting Your Goals, Strategies, and Plans

    In this step, you adapt and update your goals, strategies, and plans according to the situation and the lessons learned. 

    Generally, you review and tweak your plans and goals so that the chances of achieving your outcome increase. 

    You adapt your plans depending on what you learned from assessing your adaptive management project. Occasionally, this may also include reviewing your budget and requiring your organization to change its policies.

    • Repeat

    Lastly, you should repeat all the steps from one throughout your adaptive management project. This ensures that you always stay on the right track. 

    Passive and Active Adaptive Management

    Both passive and active adaptive management are two different modes of adaptive management. They use different a different way or a technique to achieve different outcomes. 

    In passive adaptive management, the managers do not design their approach to adaptive management. 

    Instead, they choose the best adaptive management option, presuming that the hypotheses on which the option stands are correct. They also try to apply the basic principle of adaptive management to counter the uncertainty of the situation. 

    In active adaptive management, the managers approach the management with a wide range of practices and options. 

    They evaluate each option with facts and the information they have and employ the best option. This mode of adaptive management requires testing each option carefully, to see whether or not the option will produce a certain result. 

    Some of the key features of passive and active adaptive management are:

    • Iterative Decision-Making

    Iterative decision-making means evaluating the progress or the result of an adaptive management project and tweaking the plans according to the evaluation. 

    Generally, this process is repeated continuously to generate the desired outcome. This repetition ensures that the process eventually comes at an ending point. 

    The repetition of one process is one iteration, and the outcome of that iteration is the beginning of the next iteration until the outcome is what was needed in the beginning. 

    • Feedback (Learning) Between Decisions and Assessment

    This usually involves the output of a system being routed back as an input. Thus, the system is said to be feeding back to itself. This allows adaptive management executives to make their assessments and decisions more accurate. 

    • Characterizing a System Uncertainty
    • Embracing the Uncertainty as a Way of Forward Progress
    • Bayesian Inference

    Importance of Adaptive Management

    Adaptive management is an important management system, especially for ecosystems where scientific uncertainty exists. 

    It promotes a flexible decision-making system. This system ensures that you can modify existing operations or create new ones according to the situation. 

    The dynamics approach of adaptive management makes it extremely easy to restore and amend ecosystems. 

    More so, the concept of adaptive management has been implemented at a large scale that includes mainly river basins.

    Adaptive management has also guided many practitioners in their ecosystem restoration projects and has been proposed as the main guiding principle for other restoration projects in the future. 

    What is Adaptive Management in Ecosystem?

    In an ecosystem, adaptive management is the procedure of using scientific information while implementing projects that are aimed at restoring or conserving ecosystems. 

    The concept of adaptive management is a simple one, but practically, it can be difficult to apply and implement in projects. 

    Generally, its factors vary widely, which makes it difficult to carry out projects through adaptive management. 

    In addition to that, the scope of adaptive management in various projects vary. This makes it difficult to find a general procedure to implement adaptive management in projects. 

    Adaptive management is being implemented in the national oceans policy, where conservative actions are being taken to restore species and other aquatic habitats.

    It is also debated that adaptive management can be used to improve our understanding of climate change. Various proposals have been made to implement adaptive management in climate change projects. 

    Although adaptive management is a complex process with no ideal consensus on a standard model, there are specific elements of adaptive management that shape up its basics. These elements are: 

    • Goals 

    A project needs to have some specific goals or objectives to achieve at the end. Some projects have a broad outcome, whereas others have a specific final objective to achieve. 

    • Ideal Adaptive Management Model

    While there is a myriad of models and options that adaptive managers can look up from previous projects, there needs to be at least one ideal option or model for the project. 

    Some adaptive management projects can have several models as well, depending on their scope of work. Though, these models are further modified as they are assessed throughout the adaptive management project. 

    • Scientific Assessment

    Scientific assessment is a vital element of adaptive management. This assessment helps solve the scientific uncertainty in the scenario. 

    Scientific assessment is also used while assessing the plans and strategies for the project. Usually, the effectiveness and the progress of the project are assessed. 

    • Stakeholder

    Every adaptive management project has a stakeholder, usually known as the adaptive manager or the adaptive management executive. 

    They serve as the executives of the project and provide the input of human resources and materials for the adaptive management project. They are also required to make decisive decisions regarding the project. 

    Examples of Adaptive Management

    There have been many instances where adaptive management has been applied and implemented in projects. Mainly, it has been extensively used by the USAID institution. 

    • Adaptive Management in the Mercy Corps, Syria

    One of the most heavily implemented adaptive management projects has occurred in Syria, where USAID assisted the Mercy Corps in their community-based project.

    Mercy Corps is an NGO that provides food, water, sanitation, and other facilities to the general public. It faced enormous challenges, though, for example, a lack of tools and processes for managing programs. 

    Adaptive management enabled a process of learning and evolution among the Mercy Corps staff and created a space for the Mercy Corps team to work in ways that compromised fewer resources and provided more facilities to the public. 

    The outcome of this implementation of adaptive management was that Mercy Corps was able to react rapidly to the needs of the public. They were also able to continue applying the concept of adaptive management and making decisive decisions.

    • Adaptive Management to Empower Agro-Retailers, Bangladesh

    This project was also initiated by USAID and is focused primarily on agro-retailers in Bangladesh. The main objective was to create awareness of agro-inputs, such as seeds and crop protection products. 

    One of the biggest challenges faced during this project was the lack of determination by the local agro-retailers because they had less capital and human resources to invest in the project. 

    With time, this problem was gradually solved, and through adaptive management, the executives were able to overcome educational, financial, and social challenges. 

    The outcome of this adaptive management project was a space being created for agro-retailers to continue and improve their business. Moreover, they were able to increase sales dramatically and provide services to a wider range of people. 


    The concept of adaptive management is a simple one, but its implementation requires extreme precision. If you want to implement adaptive management in your operations or projects, it is vital that you hire experts in this field, as one wrong move can waste all of your investment.

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