Adaptive Management as an Information Problem

38 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2011 Last revised: 27 Jan 2011

See all articles by Holly Doremus

Holly Doremus

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law


Enthusiasm for adaptive management has outrun evaluation of its usefulness as a natural resource management tool. Policymakers routinely endorse, and frequently require, it. Managers and academic observers alike have tended to assume that adaptive management is the best strategy. Little has been said, particularly in the policy literature, about how to decide whether an adaptive management approach makes sense. Looking at adaptive management as an information problem, this paper argues that adaptive management should be used only when it promises to improve management outcomes sufficiently to justify the additional costs it imposes. An explicit formal analysis of the prospects for learning and the value of learning for management should precede any decision to engage in adaptive management. For large-scale, long-term, or high-profile adaptive management programs, that analysis should be reviewed by outside experts and periodically re-examined. The type of analysis recommended here would help limit the use of adaptive management to appropriate circumstances, improve implementation when adaptive management is adopted, and enhance accountability. It would also highlight situations in which learning would be valuable for managers but appears too costly or difficult. In some cases, systematic barriers to learning can be reduced through targeted or general policy measures.

Suggested Citation

Doremus, Holly, Adaptive Management as an Information Problem. North Carolina Law Review, Forthcoming, UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 1744426, Available at SSRN:

Holly Doremus (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

790 Simon Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States
510-643-5699 (Phone)

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