, Volume 5, Issue 6, pp 509-528

Reconciling Ecosystem Rehabilitation and Service Reliability Mandates in Large Technical Systems: Findings and Implications of Three Major US Ecosystem Management Initiatives for Managing Human-Dominated Aquatic-Terrestrial Ecosystems

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How can decision makers reconcile the demand for increasingly reliable services drawn from the environment (including water and power) with the desire for both a better environment and more environmental amenities? In this paper, which is based on US case studies of ecosystem rehabilitation initiatives in the San Francisco Bay-Delta, the Columbia River Basin in the Pacific Northwest, and the Florida Everglades, we focus on several notable problems in current management practice. We assess the role of adaptive management and identify five areas of major innovation by which ecologists and the authorities that operate large water and hydropower systems attempt to reconcile the tension between maintaining service reliability and promoting ecological rehabilitation. The implications of the findings for a wider framework within which ecosystems can be matched to the most appropriate management regime are related specifically to aquatic-terrestrial ecosystems. Finally, we emphasize the importance of redefining ecosystem functions and services so that the inherent conflict between high-reliability services and ecosystem rehabilitation can be reconciled.