Appendix 2. Adaptive Management

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Applying adaptive management in river restoration projects involves the integration of project/program design, management and monitoring to systematically test assumptions in order to adapt and learn.

Testing assumptions is about systematically trying different actions to achieve a desired objective or outcome. This is not a random trial and error method, rather it uses knowledge about a specific site to select the best available strategy, laying out the assumptions behind how the strategy will work and then collating and assessing monitoring data to determine if the assumptions are true.

The assumptions are then adapted in response to the knowledge gained from the assessment and interpretation of the monitoring data. The implementation process and the successes and failures need to be documented both within the team and in the wider river restoration community in order for all to benefit and learn from these experiences. This enables future restoration schemes to be better designed and manage and to avoid the pitfalls experienced by others.

Adaptive management can be either passive or active. Passive adaptive management uses a predictive model based on present knowledge to inform management decisions. As new knowledge is gained the model is updated and management decisions adapted accordingly. Active adaptive management involves changing management strategies altogether in order to test a new hypothesis. Thus the goal of passive adaptive management is to improve existing management approaches, whilst for active adaptive management it is to learn by experimentation in order to determine the best management strategy. The current river restoration programme within the UK is, in many respects, at the experimental phase so much of the current adaptive management is active. Applying adaptive management in river restoration projects involves the integration of project/program design, management and monitoring to systematically test assumptions in order to adapt and learn.

Testing assumptions is about systematically trying different actions to achieve a desired objective or outcome. This is not a random trial and error method, rather it uses knowledge about a specific site to select the best available strategy, laying out the assumptions behind how the strategy will work and then collating and assessing monitoring data to determine if the assumptions are true.

The assumptions are then adapted in response to the knowledge gained from the assessment and interpretation of the monitoring data. The implementation process and the successes and failures need to be documented both within the team and in the wider river restoration community in order for all to benefit and learn from these experiences. This enables future restoration schemes to be better designed and manage and to avoid the pitfalls experienced by others.

Key features of both passive and active adaptive management are;

  • Interactive decision making whereby results are evaluated and actions adjusted on the basis of what has been learnt;
  • Feedback between monitoring and decisions, i.e. learning; Characterisation of systems uncertainty through multi-model inference;
  • Bayesian inference, i.e. evidence or observations are used to update or newly infer the probability that a hypothesis may be true;
  • Utilising risk and uncertainty as a way of building understanding.

Applying adaptive management in river restoration projects involves the integration of project/program design, management and monitoring to systematically test assumptions in order to adapt and learn.

Testing assumptions is about systematically trying different actions to achieve a desired objective or outcome. This is not a random trial and error method, rather it uses knowledge about a specific site to select the best available strategy, laying out the assumptions behind how the strategy will work and then collating and assessing monitoring data to determine if the assumptions are true.

The assumptions are then adapted in response to the knowledge gained from the assessment and interpretation of the monitoring data. The implementation process and the successes and failures need to be documented both within the team and in the wider river restoration community in order for all to benefit and learn from these experiences. This enables future restoration schemes to be better designed and manage and to avoid the pitfalls experienced by others.