Applying Adaptive Management
19-20 November 2018. Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Uncertainty is often associated with sustainable projects due to numerous reasons. This can often result in concerns from Regulators and Stakeholders with regard to the actual effect on environmental receptors. Dredging and placement projects are often permitted with license conditions or regulations based on an assessment of the potential environmental effects. In some cases strict thresholds might be applied to assure environmental performance with levels deemed to be acceptable, based on the findings of impact assessments. In other cases less clear environmental limits are specified: sometimes due to the level of uncertainty about effect on and responses by nature, caused by inability to fully appreciate and judge environmental conditions (sensitivity of receptors) and potential project effects (vulnerability to changes); or for other reasons such as sharing responsibilities and risks. Effects on the environment can be both negative as well as positive and monitoring of both outcomes is sometimes required, although monitoring of potential negative impacts is more common to ensure protection of the environment.
For those dredging projects where the outcome is less certain, or accompanied by a low confidence in the prediction of effects, a sequence of more intense and targeted monitoring, impact assessment and management actions can be implemented on a continuous or regular basis for the duration of (and after) the project, in order to keep project expectations and implementation requirements more manageable. Where this is the case, there may be benefits to adopting an adaptive management strategy, whereby the management of the project can be adapted based on the ongoing findings of the monitoring programme. This approach can benefit the environmental receptor as management can be adjusted to ensure the protection of the resource and also benefits the project owner as unnecessary management is not undertaken throughout the project due to high levels of uncertainty. This sequence of activities is jointly understood as ‘adaptive management’.
Adaptive Management (AM) helps to achieve desired goals by addressing uncertainty, incorporating flexibility and robustness into project design, and using new information to inform decision-making as the project develops. Goals include an efficient project design and streamlining implementation protocols to minimise wasting resources which, when holistically viewed, could be decreasing the project’s overall environmental footprint.
The basic steps of AM are:
- Plan: Defining the desired goals and objectives, evaluating alternative actions and selecting a preferred strategy with recognition of sources of uncertainty;
- Design: Identifying or designing a flexible management action to address the challenge;
- Implement: Implementing the selected action according to its design;
- Monitor: Monitoring the results or outcomes of the management action;
- Evaluate: Evaluating the system response in relation to specified goals and objectives; and
- Adapt: Adapting (adjusting upward or downward) the action if necessary to achieve the stated goals and objectives.
The illustration of the monitoring evaluation adjustment loop shows the basis of AM and can be established as a solid element of the project management.
Last update: 26 July 2018