Climate Adaptation Science Centers

Resist-Accept-Direct Framework

The Resist-Accept-Direct (RAD) framework is a decision-making tool that helps resource managers make informed strategies for responding to ecological changes resulting from climate change. 

Call for Papers: RAD Special Issue in "Fisheries Management and Ecology" (submissions due 11/15/21)

Responding to changing ecosystems 

Ecosystems are transforming under climate change, with substantial shifts in ecological processes and important ecosystem services occurring at unprecedented rates. As systems approach socio-economic and ecological thresholds, our current management toolbox has proved to be incomplete for conservation and the sustainable provision of ecosystem services, including fisheries production and the wildlife habitat. Multiple approaches are therefore needed to address the varying uncertainties we face in this increasingly non-stationary world. Managers navigating ecosystem transformation can benefit from considering broader objectives beyond a traditional focus on resisting ecosystem change, by also considering whether accepting change or directing it along a preferred pathway might be more appropriate (RAD framework).

Triangle diagram outlining RAD framework, with Resist, Accept, and Direct on each side of the triangle

The RAD Framework lays out three approaches for making management decisions for systems undergoing ecosystem transformation: 1) Resist, where managers work to maintain or restore ecosystem composition, structure, processes, or function on the basis of historical or acceptable current conditions, 2) Accept, where managers allow ecosystem composition, structure, process, or function to change autonomously, and 3) Direct, where managers actively chape change in ecosystem composition, structure, processes, or function toward preferred new conditions.

Taking action in the face of change

In supporting natural resource management that seeks to make strategic, forward-looking decisions in an era of change, adapting to ecosystem transformation benefits all people. Still, there is great uncertainty in the changes to come and the path forward is unclear. The scientific community can help decision-makers by increasing its understanding of how ecosystems will transform. After identifying both the desirable and unacceptable potential outcomes, managers can develop appropriate actions, all the while remaining flexible in their approach as they learn more. Today’s leadership and decision making can improve our ability to respond to ecosystem transformation by supporting efforts to understand the trajectories of change, the efficacy of current management approaches, and the best design practices for resisting and directing transformation in order to achieve desired ecosystem goals.

Infographic describing Resist, Accept, Direct (RAD) management framework and a case study in Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

The Resist-Accept-Direct (RAD) framework lays out three approaches for resource managers supporting ecosystems undergoing transformations. The first is to Resist the changes by attempting to maintain ecosystems in their current state or restore a historical state. For example, in the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, managers restore stream banks, remove and monitor invasive species, proactively manage fire, and increase landscape connectivity through highway over- or underpasses to preserve existing ecosystems. The next approach is to Accept changes that cannot be feasibly resisted or that are acceptable to society. For example, local communities in the Kenai Penninsula have accepted changes in fish and wildlife communities brought about by large-scale climate change effects, such as warming stream temperatures, melting glaciers, rising tree lines, drying wetlands, and out-of-control invasive species. The final approach is to Direct changes to a different state, either because resistance is unrealistic or there is an opportunity to move toward a desirable future state. For example, after a spruce bark beetle epidemic and human-caused fires turned white spruce forests into a novel grassland ecosystem in the Kenai Penninsula, managers are planting trees from neighboring regions and are considering introducing large grazers to stabilize the new grasslands and related communities.

Growing community of practice

Infographic showing organizations involved in RAD community of practice

A growing community of practice is incorporating the RAD framework into their ecosystem management decisions, including collaborators at: FedNet, American Fisheries Society, The Wildlife Society, Wildlife Conservation Society, Ocean Tipping Point, International Climate Change Information & Research Programme, East Jamez Landscape Futures, and the National Wildlife Federation.

USGS Projects:



Webinars & Workshops:


Katherine R Clifford, Ph.D.

Social Scientist
Fort Collins Science Center
Phone: 970-226-9209

Amanda E Cravens, Ph.D.

Research Social Scientist
Fort Collins Science Center
Phone: 970-226-9244

Abigail J. Lynch, Ph.D.

Research Fish Biologist
National Climate Adaptation Science Center
Phone: 703-648-4097

Laura Thompson, Ph.D.

Research Ecologist
National Climate Adaptation Science Center
Phone: 703-648-4083

Gregor Schuurman, Ph.D.

National Park Service Climate Change Response Program