, Volume 43, Issue 8, pp 1069–1081 | Cite as

Drivers influencing adaptive management: a retrospective evaluation of water quality decisions in South East Queensland (Australia)

  • Leo X. C. Dutra
  • Nick Ellis
  • Pascal Perez
  • Cathy M. Dichmont
  • William de la Mare
  • Fabio Boschetti


This article analyzes interviews with natural resource managers in South East Queensland (SEQ), Australia. The objectives of the research are (i) to apply and test deductive/inductive text analysis methods for constructing a conceptual model of water quality decision-making in SEQ, (ii) to understand the role of information in the decision-making process, and (iii) to understand how to improve adaptive management in SEQ. Our methodology provided the means to quickly and objectively explore interview data and also reduce potential subjective bias normally associated with deductive text analysis methods. At a more practical level, our methodology indicates potential intervention points if one is to influence the decision-making process in the region. Results indicate that relevant information is often ignored in SEQ, with significant consequences for adaptive management. Contextual factors (political, social, and environmental) together with effective communication or lobbying strategies often prevent evidence-based decisions. We propose that in addition to generating information to support decisions, adaptive management also requires an appraisal of the true character of the decision-making process, which includes how stakeholders interact, what information is relevant and salient to management, and how the available information should be communicated to stakeholders and decision-making bodies.


Water quality decisions Decision attributes Interview analysis Information Inductive/deductive method 



Erosion and sediment control


Ecosystem Health Monitoring Program


Healthy Waterways Partnership


Integrated Water Resources Management


Natural Resources Management


South East Queensland


Sewage Treatment Plant



This project was co-funded between CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship, the Healthy Waterways Partnership, and the CMAR Integrated Marine and Coastal Assessment and Management. We would like to thank Eva Abal, Di Tarte, John Bennett, Mara Wolkenhauer, Andy Steven, and Campbell Davies for their support; and interviewees from across SEQ for their participation. We also thank Sharon Tickell, Toni Cannard, Ricardo Pascual, Peter Bayliss, Olivier Thébaud, and Chris Moeseneder for their valuable work on a parallel project that supported our research. Mac Exon-Taylor provided precious support with the use of LeximancerΤΜ, and Sol Rojas-Lizana (University of Queensland) offered valuable insights on text analysis. Peter Bayliss, Olivier Thébaud, and an anonymous referee reviewed the report in which this manuscript is based, and Ingrid van Putten provided valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for providing insightful criticism that improved the first draft of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1161 kb)


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leo X. C. Dutra
    • 1
  • Nick Ellis
    • 1
  • Pascal Perez
    • 2
  • Cathy M. Dichmont
    • 1
  • William de la Mare
    • 3
  • Fabio Boschetti
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research/Wealth from Oceans FlagshipDutton ParkAustralia
  2. 2.SMART Infrastructure FacilityUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia
  3. 3.Australian Antarctic DivisionKingstonAustralia
  4. 4.CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research/Wealth from Oceans FlagshipFloreatAustralia
  5. 5.School of Earth and Geographical SciencesThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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