Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: New York
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Lynch A. J., L. M. Thompson, E. A. Beever, A. C. Engman, S. T. Jackson, T. J. Krabbenhoft, D. J. Lawrence, D. Limpinsel, R. T. Magill, T. A. Melvin, J. M. Morton, R. A. Newman, J. Peterson, M. T. Porath, F. J. Rahel, S. A. Sethi, J. L. Wilkening. (2021) Managing for a R-A-Dical Future: Resisting, Accepting, or Directing Ecosystem Transformation. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 19:461-469.


Ecosystem transformation involves the emergence of a self-organizing, self-sustaining, ecological or social-ecological system that diverges, dramatically and irreversibly, from prior ecosystem structure and function. Such transformations are occurring at increasing rates across the globe owing to rapid changes in climate, land use, and prevalence of introduced species. Consequently, a dynamic view of ecosystem processes that accommodates rapid, irreversible change will be critical for effectively conserving fish, wildlife, and other species. However, managing ecosystems toward states with novel structure and function is an inherently unpredictable and difficult task. We suggest that managers navigating ecosystem transformation consider broader objectives beyond a traditional focus on resisting ecosystem change, and also consider whether accepting inevitable change or directing it to some desirable outcome is more appropriate under some circumstances (R-A-D strategies). By explicitly acknowledging system transformation and implementing an iterative R-A-D approach, natural-resource managers can be deliberate and strategic in addressing radical ecosystem changes.