Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

RAD adaptive management for transforming ecosystems

November 17, 2021

Intensifying global change is propelling many ecosystems toward irreversible transformations. Natural resource managers face the complex task of conserving these important resources under unprecedented conditions and expanding uncertainty. As once familiar ecological conditions disappear, traditional management approaches that assume the future will reflect the past are becoming increasingly untenable. In the present article, we place adaptive management within the resist–accept–direct (RAD) framework to assist informed risk taking for transforming ecosystems. This approach empowers managers to use familiar techniques associated with adaptive management in the unfamiliar territory of ecosystem transformation. By providing a common lexicon, it gives decision makers agency to revisit objectives, consider new system trajectories, and discuss RAD strategies in relation to current system state and direction of change. Operationalizing RAD adaptive management requires periodic review and update of management actions and objectives; monitoring, experimentation, and pilot studies; and bet hedging to better identify and tolerate associated risks.