Environmental Management

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 437–448

Adaptive management: Promises and pitfalls

  • Rebecca J. McLain
  • Robert G. Lee

DOI: 10.1007/BF01474647

Cite this article as:
McLain, R.J. & Lee, R.G. Environmental Management (1996) 20: 437. doi:10.1007/BF01474647


Proponents of the scientific adaptive management approach argue that it increases knowledge acquisition rates, enhances information flow among policy actors, and provides opportunities for creating shared understandings. However, evidence from efforts to implement the approach in New Brunswick, British Columbia, Canada, and the Columbia River Basin indicates that these promises have not been met. The data show that scientific adaptive management relies excessively on the use of linear systems models, discounts nonscientific forms of knowledge, and pays inadequate attention to policy processes that promote the development of shared understandings among diverse stakeholders. To be effective, new adaptive management efforts will need to incorporate knowledge from multiple sources, make use of multiple systems models, and support new forms of cooperation among stakeholders.

Key words

Adaptive managementLandscape managementSocial learningNatural resource policyPolicy implementationSystems modeling

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca J. McLain
    • 1
  • Robert G. Lee
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Forest ResourcesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA