Environment Systems & Decisions

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 89–103 | Cite as

Case studies of scenario analysis for adaptive management of natural resource and infrastructure systems

  • Michelle C. Hamilton
  • Shital A. Thekdi
  • Elisabeth M. Jenicek
  • Russell S. Harmon
  • Michael E. Goodsite
  • Michael P. Case
  • Christopher W. Karvetski
  • James H. Lambert


Management of natural resources and infrastructure systems for sustainability is complicated by uncertainties in the human and natural environment. Moreover, decisions are further complicated by contradictory views, values, and concerns that are rarely made explicit. Scenario analysis can play a major role in addressing the challenges of sustainability management, especially the core question of how to scan the future in a structured, integrated, participatory, and policy-relevant manner. In a context of systems engineering, scenario analysis can provide an integrated and timely understanding of emergent conditions and help to avoid regret and belated action. The purpose of this paper is to present several case studies in natural resources and infrastructure systems management where scenario analysis has been used to aide decision making under uncertainty. The case studies include several resource and infrastructure systems: (1) water resources (2) land-use corridors (3) energy infrastructure, and (4) coastal climate change adaptation. The case studies emphasize a participatory approach, where scenario analysis becomes a means of incorporating diverse stakeholder concerns and experience. This approach to scenario analysis provides insight into both high-performing and robust initiatives/policies, and, perhaps more importantly, influential scenarios. Identifying the scenarios that are most influential to policy making helps to direct further investigative analysis, modeling, and data-collection efforts to support the learning process that is emphasized in adaptive management.


Scenario analysis Risk analysis Decision analysis Sustainability Adaptive management Water resource management Energy infrastructure Infrastructure corridors Climate change 



We thank Igor Linkov for the organization of the NATO Conference on Sustainable Cities and Military Installations, Hella, Iceland, June 3–6, 2012. We are grateful to additional participants of the conference “water” working group including Anna Gammelgaard Jensen, Elisa Tatham, Wendi Goldsmith, Beth Fleming, Margaret MacDonell, Don Lewis, Abou Bakr Ramadan, Bojan Srdjevic, Leslie Gillespie-Marthaler who contributed discussion during the workshop that improved this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michelle C. Hamilton
    • 1
  • Shital A. Thekdi
    • 6
  • Elisabeth M. Jenicek
    • 2
  • Russell S. Harmon
    • 3
  • Michael E. Goodsite
    • 4
  • Michael P. Case
    • 2
  • Christopher W. Karvetski
    • 5
  • James H. Lambert
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Systems and Information EngineeringUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Construction Engineering Research LaboratoryU.S. Army Engineer Research Development CenterChampaignUSA
  3. 3.International Research OfficeU.S. Army Engineer Research and Development CenterRuislipUK
  4. 4.Aarhus University Herning and Nordic Center of Excellence for Strategic Adaptation ResearchAarhusDenmark
  5. 5.Department of Applied Information TechnologyGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  6. 6.Robins School of BusinessUniversity of RichmondRichmondUSA

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