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Adaptive management has been advocated for many years as a way of managing natural resources in the face of uncertainty and variability, especially for systems where the outcomes of management decisions are difficult to predict (Holling, 1978; Bosch et al., 2003). The term refers to a systematic process for improving management policy and practice by learning from the outcomes of previous operational policies and practices (British Columbia Forest Service, 2000). The process is cyclic (Figure 1), with plans for achieving natural resource management (NRM) objectives developed using current knowledge, and monitoring undertaken to track the success of implemented management actions. Reviewing management outcomes contributes new knowledge, which can then be used to refine management plans for future implementation.
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The benefits of adaptive management are twofold. First, it allows for decisions and action to be based on experience and second, it engenders a culture of continuous improvement by consciously reflecting on previous management outcomes. Adaptive management makes sense intuitively, however, it is not automatically undertaken, either by individual land managers or organizations responsible for NRM. This is because the activities of individuals and organizations are influenced by their priorities and the resources (time, skills, equipment, information and personnel), policies and procedures that make up their operating environment. Hence the operating environment of an individual or organization is paramount to the success of adaptive management.
The factors critical to achieving each step in the planning, implementing, monitoring and reviewing cycle need to be in place for adaptive management to progress from an idealistic framework to practical application. However, to determine these is often a difficult task for an individual or an organization, due to the multitude of interdependent factors that combine to determine the success of each step. Individual and organizational idiosyncrasies also mean that these success factors and their relationships will depend on the unique operating environment in which adaptive management must take place.
This paper demonstrates the potential for using participatory systems analysis to assist organizations with implementing adaptive management. We illustrate how systems analysis involving stakeholders can be applied to identifying adaptive management stumbling blocks and target management interventions. A case study conducted with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), Australia, is used as an example.
PARTICIPATORY SYSTEMS ANALYSIS
Systems designed by human beings are 'purposeful' systems (Jackson, 2003). In other words, they are designed or managed for a purpose, to achieve particular outcomes. Organizations and other human-managed systems, such as conservation reserves, are good examples of purposeful systems. However, in NRM, there are many individuals with an interest in such systems (stakeholders) and each will have a mental model of the system and its purpose depending on their individual understanding, experience, education and values. This means that among stakeholders there can be a multitude of views about the purpose of NRM systems and the factors that affect these purposes.
In managing purposeful systems, it is important to accommodate the different world views of the stakeholders involved so that any proposed management interventions are informed by a breadth of available experience, and acceptable to those who will need to implement changes or live with the consequences of their implementation. By combining a broad range of tools and techniques developed in the field of systems thinking, with participatory methods that involve stakeholders, participatory systems analysis aims to provide a way of analyzing management problems within purposeful systems.
The term participatory refers to a bottom-up approach in which stakeholders participate in solving their management problems instead of bringing in outside experts to solve them. Systems analysis refers to the application of systems thinking to identify the root causes of management problems, and the potential implications of management decisions, by identifying the individual factors that may affect an outcome and the causal relationships between them. In participatory systems analysis, the involvement of stakeholders allows the multitude of factors that may influence outcomes or objectives to be identified, whilst systems thinking provides a mechanism through which these stakeholders can interact and discuss their understanding of the management system and the dependency relationships between these factors.
The participatory systems analysis process involves setting management objectives, abstract modelling to explore the effect of decisions or scenarios on management objectives, developing plans for implementing preferred decisions or management interventions, and monitoring the system to track management successes and adapt management interventions where necessary (Lynam, 2001). The focus of the paper is on the initial steps of the participatory systems analysis process, that is, setting objectives and abstract modelling. Examples are given of how models can be used to manage the operating environment for the success of adaptive management.
APPLYING PARTICIPATORY SYSTEMS ANALYSIS TO ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT
The success of adaptive management depends on individuals and organizations being able to develop and implement plans, monitor outcomes and then review success within purposeful systems. For adaptive management to work, factors critical to the success of each step need to be put into place, and the stumbling blocks to each step need to be removed (Figure 2). The identification of these critical success factors (CSFs) and stumbling blocks is not straightforward because they will often be unique for different individuals and organizations. Therefore, identifying them means unravelling the unique operating environment of an individual or organization, which is where the process of participatory systems analysis can help.
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Each step in the adaptive management cycle is a point at which participatory systems analysis can be applied. Planning, implementation, monitoring and reviewing objectives can be set with stakeholders, and abstract models built around these to describe success factors and their relationships (Figure 3). These conceptual models can then be used to assess system performance and identify where management intervention could lead to improved performance. The remainder of this paper uses the results of a case study to demonstrate how the initial steps in participatory system analysis can be applied to examining adaptive management within an organization responsible for fire management.
A CASE STUDY USING FIRE MANAGEMENT
In Australia, fire management on …