Threshold-Based Resource Management: A Framework for Comprehensive Ecosystem Management
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The problems posed by adaptive management for improved ecosystem health are reviewed. Other kinds of science-informed ecosystem management are needed for those regions of conflict between rapid human population growth, increased resource extraction, and the rising demand for better environmental amenities, where large-scale experiments are not feasible. One new framework is threshold-based resource management. Threshold-based resource management guides management choices among four major science and engineering approaches to achieve healthier ecosystems: self-sustaining ecosystem management, adaptive management, case-by-case resource management, and high-reliability management. As resource conflicts increase over a landscape (i.e., as the ecosystems in the landscape move through different thresholds), management options change for the environmental decision-maker in terms of what can and cannot be attained by way of ecosystem health. The major policy and management implication of the framework is that the exclusive use or recommendation of any one management regime, be it self-sustaining, adaptive, case-by-case, or high-reliability management, across all categories of ecosystems within a heterogeneous landscape that is variably populated and extractively used is not only inappropriate, it is fatal to the goals of improved ecosystem health. The article concludes with detailed proposals for environmental decision-makers to undertake “bandwidth management” in ways that blend the best of adaptive management and high-reliability management for improved ecosystem health while at the same time maintaining highly reliable flows of ecosystem services, such as water.
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