Applied ecologists often face uncertainty that hinders effective decision-making. Common traps that may catch the unwary are: ignoring uncertainty, acknowledging uncertainty but ploughing on, focussing on trivial uncertainties, believing your models, and unclear objectives. We integrate research insights and examples from a wide range of applied ecological fields to illustrate advances that are generally underused, but could facilitate ecologists’ ability to plan and execute research to support management. Recommended approaches to avoid uncertainty traps are: embracing models, using decision theory, using models more effectively, thinking experimentally, and being realistic about uncertainty. Synthesis and applications. Applied ecologists can become more effective at informing management by using approaches that explicitly take account of uncertainty.
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