Typical challenges integrating large and complex collaborative adaptive management projects and solutions for success
A tenet of natural resources management is that not all species will benefit from any single management activity. When one also factors in the effects of a management activity on multiple ecosystem services and on the well-being of local people and society at large, the complexity of competing impacts can be overwhelming. Nonetheless, policy makers, resource managers, and the public regularly face this complexity and must make decisions about trade-offs between multiple species, ecosystem services, and societal concerns, generally without an integrated ecological and social information framework to guide comparisons and choices.
Large and complex collaborative adaptive management (CAM) projects aim to address this need, by assessing impacts of management on multiple resources. To make informed decisions about changes to management as part of the adaptive management cycle, some kind of integrated basis for comparing impacts on different resources is necessary. CAM project integration requires melding input from multiple participants representing multiple groups into a coherent and useful end product that will support the next iteration of the adaptive management process. Coordinating a large CAM project can seem an overwhelming task, filled with complexity, conflict, and constraints. In this talk, we describe some of the challenges we faced in developing the integration process for the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project and share our strategies for making such a process effective.
We identify 5 primary challenges to integration that are inherent in a large and complex collaborative adaptive management project:
1) Difficulty integrating multiple disciplines and domains, each with its own traditions and norms;
2) Inconsistencies between research and management scales (temporal and spatial);
3) Multiple people in shifting roles;
4) Unbalanced institutions and non-nested jurisdictions; and
5) Diverse definitions of success among participants.
We found that the following four strategies helped create an environment in which people from diverse disciplines and multiple institutions could work together to overcome these five challenges, allowing for effective integration and collaboration in a large CAM project:
1) Standardization and consistency, e.g., in scales, in terminology, and in research products;
2) Clear, objective, and regular communication between all participants;
3) Transparency (one of our biggest challenges but also one of the most powerful tools); and
4) Administrative capacity to fill gaps in expertise, staff, and funding.