Managing for RADical ecosystem change: applying the Resist-Accept-Direct (RAD) framework

Lynch, A. J., Thompson, L. M., Beever, E. A., Cole, D. N., Engman, A. C., Hawkins Hoffman, C., Jackson, S. T., Krabbenhoft, T. J., Lawrence, D. J., Limpinsel, D., Magill, R. T., Melvin, T. A., Morton, J. M., Newman, R. A., Peterson, J. O., Porath, M. T., Rahel, F. J., Schuurman, G. W., Sethi, S. A., & Wilkening, J. L. (2021). Managing for RADical ecosystem change: applying the Resist‐Accept‐Direct (RAD) framework. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment19(8), 461–469. 



Ecological transformation is defined as a comprehensive system of changes in an ecosystem that result in irreversible divergence from historical conditions. Transformations are often driven by climate change-related disturbances such as drought, plant invasions, fire, pest outbreaks, etc., which can alter ecosystem structure, composition, and function. Lynch and colleagues argue that the resist-accept-direct (RAD) framework is useful for managing ecological transformations because it is a holistic approach that encourages managers to consider management options beyond just resisting the change. The RAD framework ecompasses three management options that can be used interconnectedly – managers can 1) resist the transformation trajectory and restore the ecosystem to historic conditions or maintain current conditions, 2) accept the ecosystem trajectory and allow the ecosystem to change autonomously, or 3) direct change to move towards preferred new conditions. When deciding which combination of RAD to use, managers should consider the ecological, societal, and economic feasibility of their options as these are often constraining factors to successful implementation. Deciding how to manage ecological transformation is not simple, but the authors suggest that managers avoid decision-making paralysis (there will not be a perfect solution), use pilot testing (test management strategies on a small plot of land before large-scale implementation), and remain flexible (research is ongoing, so the best solutions now might not be the best solutions in the future). 


Take-home Points:

  • The RAD framework is a holistic approach to ecosystem management and encourages management strategies beyond just restoring ecosystems to their historic states. 
  • When using the RAD framework to make management decisions, there are many considerations that should be taken into account, and there are a wide variety of tools available to help managers make decisions.


Management Implications:

  • The RAD framework is context-specific. Each ecosystem might require a different combination of resisting, accepting, and/or directing change. One management plan might work for one ecosystem but not for another. 
  • Managers should consider the constraining factors of their management options for successful implementation. For example, is the strategy economically, societally, and ecologically feasible?