Incorporating a Socio-Ecological-Technological Systems (SETS) perspective into the adaptive management framework

Incorporating a social-ecological-technological systems (SETS) perspective to the adaptive management process requires that stakeholders and managers conceptualize restoration projects as part of coupled human and natural systems and assess underlying social drivers and accrued benefits in monitoring and intervention. Technology plays an increasingly important role in restoration and monitoring, and recently as a tool to augment the delivery of ecosystem services and environmental education. The adaptive management of ecological restoration projects acknowledges the uncertainty inherent in complex ecosystems, especially in their response to human interventions. The process is iterative on multiple levels: it requires reassessment of system conditions to determine whether ecological conditions are on a trajectory to meet targets following an intervention. At a higher, more “meta” level, each implementation of adaptive management within a particular ecosystem type provides information which can be valuable for setting realistic targets or incorporating the best management practices in future restoration projects. Thus as our understanding of system responses to management strategies improves, the potential for success in future endeavors improves as well. We argue that similar benefits will accrue as we begin to incorporate recent advances in our understanding of social, ecological and technological interdependencies into the adaptive management framework. This can be accomplished by addressing the importance of underlying socioeconomic drivers, as well as connecting the new state of the system with changes in ecosystem services and impacts on human health and well-being. By integrating SETS into the adaptive management framework, stakeholders and managers will increase their ability to clarify the decision context, enumerate and anticipate beneficial impacts on human health and well-being, and gain insight into the long-term viability of restoration projects.