Watershed-Scale Adaptive Management: A Social Science Perspective

  • Catherine Allan
  • Allan Curtis
  • Bruce Shindler
Part of the World Forests book series (WFSE, volume 15)


Adaptive management is as much as social endeavor as a scientific or technical one. Drawing on our work as social scientists, and in particular on our evaluations of the Adaptive Management areas in the Pacific Northwest of the USA, and the Heartlands project in southeastern Australia, we suggest that watershed-scale adaptive management must be recognized as a radical departure from established ways of managing natural resources if it is to achieve its promise. Successful implementation will require new ways of thinking about management, new organizational structures and new implementation processes and tools. Adaptive management encourages scrutiny of prevailing social and organizational norms and this is unlikely to occur without a change in the culture of natural resource management and research. Planners and managers require educational, administrative, and political support as they seek to understand and implement adaptive management. Learning and reflection must be valued and rewarded, and fora established where learning through adaptive management can be shared and explored. The creation of new institutions, including educational curricula, organizational policies and practices, and professional norms and beliefs, will require support from within bureaucracies and from politicians. For adaptive management to be effective researchers and managers alike must work together at the watershed-scale to bridge the gaps between theory and practice, and between social and technical understandings of watersheds and the people who occupy and use them.


Natural Resource Management Adaptive Management Resource Management Program Northwest Forest Plan Natural Resource Profession 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We acknowledge the contribution made by George Stankey to the American Water Resources Association Journal paper on which this chapter is based.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Land, Water and SocietyCharles Sturt UniversityAlburyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Forest ResourcesOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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