Enhancing Cross-Jurisdictional Adaptive Management in the Gulf of Mexico

Science Center Objects

Using an iterative qualitative coding process, WARC researchers are identifying objectives, stressors, and management priorities to support the implementation of adaptive management in restoration programs across the Gulf of Mexico.

The Science Issue and Relevance: The Gulf of Mexico (GoM) region suffered an environmental catastrophe with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. In response to this event, billions of dollars have been allocated for holistic ecosystem restoration. To ensure the efficacy of these efforts, programs across the GoM region are implementing adaptive management as a framework to help guide restoration decision making.  Successful implementation of adaptive management requires establishing explicit objectives that serve as a measure of the effectiveness of restoration actions. However, complex governance structures, legal requirements, and jurisdictional boundaries currently prevent the establishment of shared restoration objectives across projects and programs, limiting the scale at which restoration effectiveness can be evaluated. Because ecosystems do not adhere to these boundaries and limitations, holistic ecosystem restoration will require a systematic approach to connect disjointed restoration objectives. With cohesive objectives in place, decision makers will then be able to assesses restoration success across the GoM region.

Brown Pelican nesting colony on Louisiana barrier island

Brown Pelican nesting colony on Louisiana barrier island (credit: Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries).

Methodology for Addressing the Issue: To address the challenge of aligning objectives for GoM restoration across multiple scales and jurisdictions, we are conducting a rigorous synthesis of existing objectives. Using an iterative qualitative coding process, based on the Grounded Theory method, we are identifying and synthesizing objectives, stressors, and management priorities within existing management plans and restoration projects in the GoM region. In doing so, we can identify shared objectives across state boundaries and better align on-the-ground restoration project objectives to broader-scale management plan priorities. The outcome of this effort will provide 1) a catalogue of state and project-scale objectives, stressors, and strategies; 2) a conceptual network map identifying the linkages between projects and management plans; and 3) shared themes illustrating how the GoM holistic ecosystem restoration story can be told through the lens of shared objectives.

Sea turtle on beach

Sea turtle on beach (Credit: Pixabay)


Future Steps: On behalf of the Department of the Interior (DOI), the USGS will continue to support the implementation of adaptive management in restoration programs in the GoM region, including the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) and Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States (RESTORE) Council, and work with partners to scale up assessments of restoration effectiveness.


Related Project(s): RESTORE Council Monitoring and Assessment Program, NRDA Cross-TIG MAM