A Revised Adaptive Decision-Making Framework for Rangeland Management

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Rangelands across the world are facing rapid and unprecedented social and ecological change. In the US West, sustaining the ecological and economic integrity of rangelands across both public and private lands depends largely on ranchers who make adaptive decisions in the face of variability and uncertainty. In this study, we build on previous conceptualizations of adaptive decision making that situate individual-level decisions within complex rangeland social-ecological systems. We surveyed 450 (36% response rate) Montana ranchers to gain insight into how key factors influenced adaptive decision making, specifically in the context of ongoing drought and climate-related change affecting rangeland ecology and productivity. We predicted that ranchers’ management goals, their use of information sources, and their use of monitoring would significantly influence the use of adaptive practices, with monitoring mediating the relationship between the explanatory and response variables. We tested these predictions using a path model analysis and found that management goals related to both stewardship and profit/production, the number of information sources used, and monitoring were all significantly and positively related to ranchers’ use of adaptive management practices. Interestingly, we found that these factors were hierarchical with monitoring and the use of information was the strongest predictor while management goals were secondary. The significant, mediating effect of monitoring on the use of adaptive practices suggests that monitoring may be an important means for providing ranchers with useful and timely information about rangeland condition that is needed to adjust their actions, meet their management goals, and adapt to drought and climate-related change. We argue there is a need to better understand the efficacy of monitoring designs—of what, by whom, and how—for adaptive decision making, and we discuss other considerations related to the provision of useful drought and climate information for adaptive decision making based on our findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-43
Number of pages14
JournalRangeland Ecology and Management
StatePublished - Nov 2023


  • adaptive decision making
  • adaptive management
  • decision making
  • rangeland management
  • rangeland monitoring


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