Publication Details

This paper was originally published as Whelan, RJ, Adaptive Management: What does it mean and how can it be used in fire management?, in Halse, S (ed) Bushfire: Managing the Risk, New South Wales Nature Conservation Council, Sydney, 2004.


‘Adaptive Management’ is becoming a frequently heard term but it is a much misunderstood concept. It does not mean that developments can go ahead and be ‘adapted’ if detrimental effects are discovered! Its greatest value is in defining an experimental approach to land management in situations where scientific knowledge is lacking but where immediate actions are required. This is especially important where doing nothing might conceivably be just as undesirable as applying any of the alternative management options. Given the lack of knowledge of fire responses of much of our native biota, adaptive management is clearly a sensible approach to deciding the fire regimes that might be applied in fire-prone landscapes. This paper identifies the main elements that are needed for incorporating good experiments into management: replication of sites, randomisation, and interspersion of treatments, monitoring and analysis of results, and communication of findings. The Illawarra Greenhood Orchid is used as a case study to illustrate that these elements can indeed be incorporated into fire management.