In regions prone to wildfire, a major driver of ecosystem change is increased frequency and intensity of fire events caused by a warming, drying climate. Uncertainty over the nature and extent of change creates challenges for how to manage ecosystems subject to altered structure and function under climate change. Using montane forests in south-eastern Australia as a case study, we addressed this issue by developing an ecosystem state-and-transition model based on a synthesis of expert knowledge and published data, with fire frequency and intensity as drivers. We then used four steps to determine future adaptation options: (1) estimation of changes in ecosystem services under each ecosystem state to identify adaptation services: the ecosystem processes and services that help people adapt to environmental change; (2) identification and sequencing of decision points to maintain each ecosystem state or allow transition to an alternative state; (3) analysis of interactions between societal values, scientific and management knowledge and institutional rules (vrk) required to reframe the decision context for future management, and (4) determining options for an adaptation pathway for management of montane forests under climate change. Our approach is transferable to other ecosystems for which alternative states can be predicted under climate change. © 2016, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.