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Climate Change Adaptation

Complex Systems Approach to Global Change

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Water resources management is an inherently complex system that has developed over time through repeated application of modular approaches (projects), each reflecting a particular set of desired outcomes and constraints. Yet these separate projects make up an integrated system composed of engineered and social systems that interact in ways that are not fully or correctly understood.

As we move to fully integrate water resources management processes, we must take the multiple functions, dependencies, and constraints into account in an evolutionary process that builds on traditional systems approaches.

Assessment of the system and its subsystems should identify tasks and corresponding structures that can be suitably dealt with through conventional planning and engineering techniques. More highly complex subsystems can benefit from an evolutionary engineering approach that supports change while assuring system robustness and safety.

This project team is working with engineering and social systems experts to identify and evaluate problems, approaches, and techniques to improve performance and interactions in priority systems and subsystems. One of the experts we are working with is Dr. Lance Gunderson of Emory University. Dr. Gunderson is helping us to evaluate and develop the resilience and adaptive capacity of USACE to confront changes in environmental, economic, and social conditions, so that we can manage complex systems in the face of increasing uncertainty. He recently presented a seminar (pdf, 2.6 MB) on the topic of "Increasing adaptive capacity for management: the nature of change and the change of nature."



Reviewed 4 October 2017


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