What is adaptive management?
Bounded Rationality - a means of learning when there is limited data capability
"Instead of considering all the available alternatives when making a choice, we typically select from a restricted set. Instead of choosing the best alternative (which may not even be in the set we choose from), we typically make a satisfactory choice -- one that is good enough, if not the best. These apparently simple insights have profound implications."
( K. Lee: pp. 52, 53 )
Adaptive management was defined by an interdisciplinary team of biologists and systems analysts working in the mid-1970s at the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis, a think tank outside Vienna.
A similar approach was developed slightly later by Allan Savory called holistic resource management. The implicit idea underlying these approaches [is] that humans could not and should not try to control as many natural fluctuations as industrialism seems to demand.
(Kai Lee, p. 54)
These two concepts are related kinds of limitations with slightly different meanings.
Both terms suggest that available resources such as water, energy, air, landscape, vegetation, wildlife or domesticated produce have a limit.
This limit, or threshold, represents a level of exploitation beyond which extraction of any further value diminishes because economic costs grow too high to keep the resource from exhausting its self renewing potential.
To better understand limitations in the rate of extraction, consider acceleration in a vehicle.
1. the initial amount or volume of gas required to go from 0-25 miles per hour is less than the subsequent volume to accelerate from 26-50 miles per hour.
2. the next increment of acceleration from 50 to 75 mph uses even more gasoline fuel than the previous amount of fuel consumed.
3. The example above means that each additional amount of fuel required to increase the pace of the vehicle is greater than the previous input. So you exert more and more effort to get the same or less return in value.
5. By analogy -- the accelerating vehicle is like a human community trying to increase its use of water, energy, air or land. Each of these native components of places imposes its own limitations on economic behavior because water is limited by climate (energy), atmospheric conditions and landscape.
6. Each native component of a forest, field, or mine can be transformed into fuels for the use of human community and limited by ecological processes that are subject to the laws of thermodynamics.
Accounting to natural assets is hard, but worthwhile
In terms of ecological accounting informing design practices, (Sim Van der Ryn) the above concepts are fundamental explanations of why unhealthy conditions arise. Many of our ecological problems arise from poorly designed systems used by communities.
To best understand the relationship of water and land, see the Siry text in terms of Aldo Leopold's description of the "land organism" and Rachel Carson's understanding of the role of wildlife and vegetation in characterizing productive and thus healthy landscapes.
Kai Lee suggests that adaptive management is an experimental application of social learning.
We apply these experiments to entire ecosystems because large ecosystems are the sources of our farming, forestry, fishery or even electrical wealth. Extracting wealth over a long period of time (as long as a forest grows to maturity (50 to 200 years), for instance, requires adaptive management.
While it is easy to see how outdoor recreation may rely on natural ecological conditions, it is not always apparent that our households' need for services directly affects water, landscape, vegetation and wildlife.
Even electrical use that is needed for homes and to pump water affects the air and water since energy use requires combustion and steam for us to extract valuable electricity from the environment. That process leads to air and water pollution.