The 6.7 billion human inhabitants of the earth have the ability to drastically alter ecosystems and the populations of species that have taken eons to evolve. By better understanding how our actions affect the environment, we stand a better chance of designing successful strategies to manage ecosystems sustainably. Toward this end, the Third Interagency Conference on Research in the Watersheds (ICRW) was convened in Estes Park, CO, on September 8-11, 2008.
The Conference provided a forum to present adaptive management as a practical tool for learning how to manage complex ecosystems more sustainably. Further complexity introduced by spatially variable and continuously changing environmental drivers favors this management approach because of its emphasis on adaptation in response to changing conditions or ineffective actions. For climate change in particular, an adaptive approach can more effectively accommodate the uncertainty in future climate scenarios.
Scenarios compiled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are built on distinct economic, energy, and societal models. The scenarios predict potential changes in greenhouse gases, temperature, precipitation, and atmospheric aerosols, which would have direct or indirect impacts on the timing, volume, and quality of runoff, vegetation, snowpack, stream temperature, groundwater, thawing permafrost, and icecaps.
Through presentations and field trips, researchers and stakeholders described how their findings and issues fit into the adaptive management 'learning by doing' paradigm of Assess > Design > Implement > Monitor > Evaluate > Adjust > Assess.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Planning for an Uncertain Future - Monitoring, Integration, and Adaptation
Scientific Investigations Report
U.S. Geological Survey
Branch of Regional Research
Report: xii, 293 p.; Available online and on DVD-ROM
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Larger Work Title:
Proceedings of the Third Interagency Conference on Research in the Watersheds