Why monitoring often fails to inform adaptive management: a case study



Monitoring that facilitates adaptive management requires us to link observed changes in resource condition with management actions. Here, we present a case study to discuss how monitoring should be undertaken so it can facilitate adaptive management. Drawing on monitoring data collected by landholders as part of an incentive programme for native vegetation conservation on private land, we examined whether it was possible to determine to what extent changes in native vegetation condition were affected by funded management actions. Using a simple statistical technique (linear regression), we were unable to find strong links between the intended natural resource management (NRM) outcomes and funded management actions because (i) we could only use data from 22% of the 55 monitored sites as most data sheets were incomplete; (ii) sampling was undertaken in different seasons making it difficult to distinguish change due to management from change due to natural variability; and (iii) management actions were recorded in a generic way only, and not monitored through time, thus making it difficult to link observed changes in vegetation condition to on-ground management. We suggest that monitoring programmes will only inform adaptive management where NRM bodies can prosecute (i) sampling designs that enable change as a result of management to be distinguished from change due to natural variability, and (ii) protocols that provide consistent data capture between sites and through time.