California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Adaptive Management

What is Adaptive Management?

Adaptive management is defined in Delta Reform Act (Water Code §85052) as "a framework and flexible decision-making process for ongoing knowledge acquisition, monitoring, and evaluation leading to continuous improvements in management planning and implementation of a project to achieve specified objectives." An adaptive management approach provides a structured process that allows for taking action under uncertain conditions based on the best available science, closely monitoring and evaluating outcomes, and re-evaluating and adjusting decisions as more information is learned.

The adaptive management framework used by the Ecosystem Restoration Program encompasses three broad phases: Plan, Do, and Evaluate and Respond. This framework is consistent with the approach described in the Delta Stewardship Councilís Delta Plan.

adaptive management framework diagram

Conceptual Models

The use of models (e.g., conceptual, statistical, and process) represents a key element of adaptive management. Models are used to formalize and apply current scientific understanding, as well as provide a venue through which to identify areas of uncertainty, identify potential restoration actions, develop expectations, assess the likelihood of success, define monitoring needs, and evaluate tradeoffs associated with different management actions. Additional information regarding life history and ecosystem conceptual models can be found on the Delta Regional Ecosystem Restoration Implementation Plan (DRERIP) page.

Performance Measures

Measurable outcomes and performance measures are important for a number of reasons including documenting desires and anticipated outcomes of specific actions, helping to define the monitoring required to evaluate the ultimate outcomes of those actions, and tracking progress towards achieving the objectives.

Ecosystem Monitoring

A critical component of adaptive management is to monitor the implementation of restoration actions and other related activities to gauge how the environment responds to those actions. Monitoring provides the data necessary for tracking ecosystem health, for evaluating progress towards restoration goals and objectives (i.e., performance measures), and for evaluating and updating problem statements, goals and objectives, conceptual models, and restoration actions.