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    Author(s): Sally Duncan
    Date: 1999
    Source: Science Findings. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. February (11): 1-5
    Publication Series: Science Findings
    Station: Pacific Northwest Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (1.0 MB)


    Adaptive management. What is it and how can it help us learn? Bernard Bormann, a PNW Research Station scientist, is leading a study on the subject. He defines the term this way: the management of complex natural systems by building on common sense and learning from experience. Experience can often mean change. The challenge of implementing adaptive management is how to adapt to constant change--in society and in the ecosystem.

    The learning process is often not fast enough, however, to deal with quickly emerging land management issues. Bormann proposes that management produce knowledge alongside recreation, timber, and wildlife. This approach would accelerate learning and eliminate short term reactive management. Reactive management, according to Bormann, has not proven to be successful or useful over the long term.

    His research also shows that the range of alternatives available to land managers should be expanded. Having several options from which to choose will more likely meet the needs of societal values and ecological capacity. The current idea of so-called "best" management practices assumes that one prescription will work on every site. Adaptive management assumes that there is no best practice. "By first accepting that more than one pathway can achieve a given goal and then by comparing the chosen pathways, managers are seeking to learn, to expand their decision options over time," says Bormann. Citizens, managers, and scientists working together can help achieve sustainable ecosystems. Learning how to learn, says Bormann, is more valuable to various partners than only hearing what researchers have learned.

    Publication Notes

    • Visit PNW's Publication Request Page to request a hard copy of this publication.
    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Duncan, Sally. 1999. Confronting illusions of knowledge: how should we learn?. Science Findings. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. February (11): 1-5

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