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Responding to ecological transformation: Mental models, external constraints, and manager decision-making

November 17, 2021

Ecological transformation creates many challenges for public natural resource management and requires managers to grapple with new relationships to change and new ways to manage it. In the context of unfamiliar trajectories of ecological change, a manager can resist, accept, or direct change, choices that make up the resist-accept-direct (RAD) framework. In this article, we provide a conceptual framework for how to think about this new decision space that managers must navigate. We identify internal factors (mental models) and external factors (social feasibility, institutional context, and scientific uncertainty) that shape management decisions. We then apply this conceptual framework to the RAD strategies (resist, accept, direct) to illuminate how internal and external factors shape those decisions. Finally, we conclude with a discussion of how this conceptual framework shapes our understanding of management decisions, especially how these decisions are not just ecological but also social, and the implications for research and management.