Challenges of managing a European brown bear population; lessons from Sweden, 1943–2013
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Adaptive management’, which has been defined as the repeated iteration between management action, scientific assessment and revised management action, leading to a strengthened foundation for management, is required by Swedish law to be incorporated into the management of large carnivores. We have evaluated whether the size and/or trend of the brown bear Ursus arctos population in Sweden corresponded to management-decided national objectives during five management regimes during the past 70 years (1943–2013). We found that the objective had been met in only one period, when it had been worded very vaguely. During the last period studied (2008–2013), when management was carried out on the county level and adaptive management was required by the Swedish Government, four of six counties met their trend objectives, but only one of six met the population objectives, although one was close to meeting them. Sociological studies have documented major problems in communication among the members of the county delegations responsible for the management of large carnivores. As adaptive management apparently never has been implemented successfully in brown bear management in Sweden, we recommend that the Delegations for Game Management be mandated to integrate up-to-date, scientifically documented biological information into their decisions. This is not done consistently today. Researchers should be involved in the process to inform about relevant, available information, design testable scientific ‘experiments’ based on the predicted results of management decisions, and evaluate the results in relation to the predictions, perhaps as members of a ‘boundary organization’ consisting of researchers, managers and stakeholders. This would require a new management paradigm, because many in Sweden seem to be skeptical to the idea of involving researchers in management.