Table 1. Participation within adaptive management: why it is important
Why is participation important?
(1) By using perspectives from a range of sources, a more complete overview
is obtained, creating a more robust factual base and reducing uncertainty
(Olsson et al. 2004, Berkes 1999, Woodhill and Roling 1998). As a result,
local inputs are often considered central to adaptive management processes,
ultimately leading to better results and sustainability (cf. Arheimer et al.
2004). However, some commentators warn that participation may not necessarily
enhance the quality of outcomes because of the interaction of competing interests
(e.g., Brody 2003, Connelly et al. 2006).
(1) Daniels and Walker’s (1996) work on the Oregon Dunes National
Recreation Area illustrates how different users of environmental systems have
different needs. Incorporating the perspectives of all user groups minimized
conflict, allowing creation of a common knowledge base about dune issues, which
fed into the production of a new management plan. Walters et al. (2000) used
participatory modeling with researchers and stakeholders in an iterative process
to identify alternative management strategies for the Glen Canyon Dam on the
Colorado River. The process showed how changes in management led to the transfer
of benefits from one stakeholder group to another, necessitating the development
of a shared vision with input from all stakeholders. Numerous other adaptive
management projects have cited a range of substantive reasons for ensuring
active participation from stakeholders (e.g., Wollenberg et al. 2000, Peterson
et al. 2003, Redpath et al. 2004, Colfer 2005).
(2) The participation of “non-scientific experts” provides
insight into social, ethical, and political values that cannot be gained through
scientific approaches (Middendorf and Busch 1997). These ideas are not
uncontested, however, and some commentators question the role of local
“lay” knowledge in today’s dynamic and globalized world (e.g.,
Krupnik and Jolly 2002, Doolittle 2003, Briggs and Sharp 2004).
(2) Kelsey (2003) used participatory techniques to combine local and
scientific knowledge to develop biodiversity conservation initiatives that took
local values into consideration. Robertson and McGee (2003) used oral histories
to identify local values concerning wetland rehabilitation in Australia.
(3) Top-down approaches violate democratic ideals, so a critical function
of participation is for local people to be allowed to control the speed and
direction of changes in their social–ecological systems (Colfer et al. 1995,
Colfer 2005). “Lay” participation is, therefore, said to afford
legitimacy to the adaptive process.
(3) There are numerous examples of government-sponsored initiatives with
varying degrees of participation in response to normative arguments coming out
of international and national policy debates, e.g., LA21 (e.g., Fraser et al.
(4) Political concerns may be used to justify participation, such as the
wish to empower previously marginalized groups. Whether the opportunity for
empowerment and democracy is taken, however, varies between cases. Participation
is also particularly pertinent when consensually agreed targets need to be
reached (e.g., Arheimer et al. 2004) or when “the governing” need
access to relevant information, networks, or target groups (Geurts and Mayer
1996), which, in some cases, could not occur without the participation of
(4) Connelly et al. (2006) argue that normative political demands for
enhanced public participation have driven the development of a “new
governance” of partnerships between government agencies and NGOs to manage socio–ecological systems in the UK. They analyze three deliberative arenas for environmental management in the UK’s Peak District National Park and
conclude that the effects of participatory partnership working on the
sustainability of decision making are by no means clear cut.
(5) By encouraging diverse stakeholders to work together in the framework
of adaptive management, participation can foster social learning. This can
transform relationships, changing people’s perceptions of each
other’s views, and enabling them to identify new ways of working
(5) The HarmoniCOP project stimulated social learning to develop new urban
water management strategies with Swiss stakeholders in an adaptive management
framework (Pahl-Wostl and Hare 2004). There are numerous other examples of the
stimulation of social learning for the adaptive management of socioecological
systems in the literature (e.g., Daniels and Walker 1996, Leeuwis and Pyburn
2002, Keen and Mahanty 2006), and Social Network Analysis and Stakeholder
Analysis can be used to select representative, yet sufficiently small, groups to
engage in learning activities.