Table 1. Participation within adaptive management: why it is important

Why is participation important? Examples
(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. 2006)
(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 “the governed.” (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 together. (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.