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Adaptive Ecosystem Management in the Pacific Northwest: a Case Study from Coastal Oregon

Andrew N Gray, U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station

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Abstract

Adaptive ecosystem management has been adopted as a goal for decision making by several of the land management and regulatory agencies of the U.S. government. One of the first attempts to implement ecosystem management was undertaken on the federally managed forests of the Pacific Northwest in 1994. In addition to a network of reserve areas intended to restore habitat for late-successional terrestrial and aquatic species, "adaptive management areas" (AMAs) were established. These AMAs were intended to be focal areas for implementing innovative methods of ecological conservation and restoration and meeting economic and social goals. This paper analyzes the primary ecological, social, and institutional issues of concern to one AMA in the Coast Range in northern Oregon. Based on existing knowledge, several divergent approaches are available that could meet ecological goals, but these approaches differ greatly in their social and economic implications. In particular, approaches that rely on the natural succession of the existing landscape or attempt to recreate historical patterns may not meet ecosystem goals for restoration as readily as an approach based on the active manipulation of existing structure and composition. In addition, institutions are still adjusting to recent changes in management priorities. Although some innovative projects have been developed, adaptive management in its most rigorous sense is still in its infancy. Indeed, functional social networks that support adaptive management may be required before policy and scientific innovations can be realized. The obstacles to adaptive management in this case are similar to those encountered by other efforts of this type, but the solutions will probably have to be local and idiosyncratic to be effective.

Key words

adaptive management, adaptive management area, ecosystem management, forest ecology, landscape ecology, models, monitoring, old-growth forest, public involvement
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087