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The Adaptive Decision-Making Process as a Tool for Integrated Natural Resource Management: Focus, Attitudes, and Approach

Padma Lal, Australian National University
Hazel Lim-Applegate, Australian National University
Michelle C Scoccimarro, Australian National University


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Integrated natural resource management (INRM) and its many closely related approaches are generally considered to be more effective than single-disciplinary approaches for managing the complex resource issues currently facing many countries. INRM approaches aim to integrate several disciplines and involve different stakeholders operating in their own subsystems across different spatial and temporal scales. These approaches focus on identifying management strategies for sustaining natural resource stocks and flows of goods and services as well as their underlying ecological processes. Changes in the behavior of consumers and producers and in the allocation of resources among uses, users, time, and space will be necessary to achieve sustainable development. To accomplish this, changes in focus, attitudes, and approaches to research and management will also be necessary. This paper argues that the key focus of INRM should not be the natural resource itself, but rather the interactions of humans with each other and with their natural environment, and the decisions they make about using and managing resources. Such decision-making processes aim to identify and implement action-oriented strategies and to apply economic and noneconomic instruments that motivate behavioral changes, allowing for different responses to various economic imperatives. This process should be guided by constructivist philosophy and supported by rigorous cross-disciplinary research and active stakeholder participation. It must be compatible with dialectic decision making to reflect the different views and objectives of the stakeholders, the presence of incomplete information, and, at times, the fact that researchers have only a poor understanding of the dynamics of subsystems and their interactions. There must also be iterative, regular monitoring and fine-tuning of the management strategies chosen. We prefer to call the entire process an adaptive decision-making process (ADMP). Here we propose a four-phase ADMP illustrated by projects in Fiji and Thailand, both of which are supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. The role of research, researchers, and other stakeholders in the ADMP is also discussed.

Key words

adaptive decision-making process, bioeconomic models, commodity research, decision support system, integrated natural resource management.

Copyright © 2001 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087