Innovative approaches are required to address the sustainability of ecosystems and human wellbeing. Adaptive co-management (ACM) is emerging as such an approach because it nurtures resilience and provides an arena to address the complexity and uncertainty that characterize social-ecological systems. The literature on adaptive co-management reveals considerable variation in how it is defined and operationalized, a limited basis for rigorously comparing empirical findings, and few insights about relationships to actual outcomes. In this paper, we develop a diagnostic framework for ACM and discuss its implementation in biosphere reserves. The diagnostic framework draws upon existing scholarship and involves investigating the setting, looking for activities and practices, assessing learning and collaboration, and making connections to outcomes. Biosphere reserves are identified as natural experiments with ACM and we therefore use them to illustrate how each aspect of the framework can be made operational. The framework is an important step in systematically and consistently diagnosing ACM across contexts.
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Keywords: adaptive co-management, learning, networks, outcomes, social-ecological systems, biosphere reserves
Citation: Plummer, R., L.Schultz, D. Armitage, O. Bodin, B. Crona, and J. Baird. 2014 Beijer Discussion Paper no. 245