Facilitating Adaptive Management in California’s Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta
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Facilitating Adaptive Management in California’s Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta

  • Author(s): Wiens, John A.
  • Zedler, Joy B.
  • Resh, Vincent H.
  • Collier, Tracy K.
  • Brandt, Stephen
  • Norgaard, Richard B.
  • Lund, Jay R.
  • Atwater, Brian
  • Canuel, Elizabeth
  • Fernando, Harindra J.
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License
Abstract

https://doi.org/10.15447/sfews.2017v15iss2art3

Uncertainties in understanding ecosystems increase the risk that management will fail to achieve desired results. Adaptive management is a structured, iterative application of science-based knowledge to reduce uncertainties and build flexibility into decision-making. However, adaptive management is more easily planned than implemented, and it is only beginning to be applied in the California’s Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta. We draw from two assessments of adaptive management in the Delta and examples of its use elsewhere to suggest how the process can be facilitated. Although a highly structured adaptive-management process may not always be needed, several elements are essential. Adaptive management should begin by clearly identifying the problem, goals, and objectives; recognizing uncertainties; identifying decision points and alternative approaches; recognizing when adjustments are needed and having the flexibility to make them; and considering societal and political constraints. Model complexity should be matched to that of the system and management needs; experiments can help unravel causal relationships. Monitoring, analyses, and syntheses require comprehensive data-management systems. More frequent and organized communications among scientists, managers, stakeholders, and decision-makers are necessary. We propose the establishment of an “Adaptive Management Team” to coordinate efforts across the management spectrum of the Delta and to provide guidance and link individual projects to shared approaches and experiences. Reliable long-term support will be needed to assess results of management actions, adjust approaches where improvement is likely, and strive toward the legislated goals of enhancing the Delta ecosystem while also providing reliable water supplies to much of California, and doing both these things in a manner that protects values of the Delta as a place where people live and work.

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