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Successful ecosystem management allows conservation approaches to change appropriately based on new information. Conservation actions must be evaluated so that relative success can be documented and subsequent actions can be adapted for greater effectiveness.
Adaptive management can be successful, when management goals and objectives are clearly stated so that monitoring benchmarks can be developed accordingly (Noon 2003). Objectives should be quantifiable and should address the conservation target, the geographic area, the desired action, a measurable state or degree of change desired, and a time frame (Elzinga et al. 2001). Sampling designs for evaluating conservation actions should be robust, and the ability to adequately assess outcomes based on monitoring data must be analyzed (i.e., power analysis) to avoid the possibility of declaring an action unsuccessful when it was actually working or vice versa. There must be a commitment of time and money for implementation of monitoring and for data analysis and evaluation. Finally, managers must commit to accepting monitoring results and to changing conservation actions accordingly.
Adaptive management also requires a willingness to modify assumptions, goals and actions based on new information gained through monitoring efforts. It necessitates extensive documentation of hypotheses, action designs and results.
Research is also a critical component of the adaptive management approach. Many conservation actions necessarily proceed with limited ecological information and without knowledge of whether the conservation action is the best approach. Research is needed to better understand ecological relationships and to test new and existing approaches. A diversity of actions to address specific threats or needs should be designed, implemented and monitored to help determine best practices.