Spatial Education: Exploiting Space-structured Decision-making to Reduce Management Uncertainty

Adaptive management is a form of structured decision-making designed to guide management of natural resource systems when their behaviors are uncertain. The basic elements of adaptive management include a setting in which a recurring decision is to be made, a stated objective of management, a set of predictive models that represent competing hypotheses about system behavior, and a program of monitoring to repeatedly assess relative credibility of the models. Thus, management itself is used to inform future management and to consequently improve conservation delivery through time. Where decision-making can be replicated across units of a landscape, learning can be accelerated, and biological processes can be understood in a larger spatial context. Cooperative conservation endeavors, where multiple partners collaborate to develop the decision making design and execute the elements, can be ideal vehicles for implementing such strategies. The effort requires a high degree of coordination among partners, commitment to a process that plays out over time, and energetic champions vested in the outcome. However, the benefits accruing from a decision-making framework that is built on objectivity, transparency, and multi-partner participation often justify the hard work. Spatially-structured decision designs have great potential for application in the southeastern United States and elsewhere; some applications to be illustrated include the management of private lands habitat incentive programs, control of invasive plant species, and harvest of animal populations.

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