Resilience is the capacity of a system, whether that is system is a lawn, a city, or a forest, to absorb shock while maintaining basic function, structure, and service. This sounds like a relatively straightforward statement but when applied to systems of humans and nature, it has far reaching consequences.
Resilient ecosystems are highly functional and provision numerous services such as soil building, water infiltration and purification, nutrient regulation, food production, and recreational opportunities.
Resilience has three defining characteristics:
- The amount of change the system can undergo and still retain function
- The degree to which the system is capable of self-organization
- The ability to build and increase the capacity for adaptation
HOW IS RESILIENCE LOST?
Resilience can be decreased by a variety of factors including: loss of biodiversity, toxic pollution, inflexible institutions, subsidies that encourage unsustainable resource use, and emphasis of efficiencies that decreases redundancy
HOW IS RESILIENCE ENHANCED?
Natural systems are inherently resilient but just as their capacity to cope with disturbance can be degraded, so can it be enhanced. The key to resilience in social-ecological systems is diversity. Biodiversity plays a crucial role by providing functional redundancy. For example, in a grassland ecosystem, several different species will commonly perform nitrogen fixation, but each species may respond differently to climatic events, thus ensuring that even though some species may be lost, the process of nitrogen fixation within the grassland ecosystem will continue. Similarly, when the management of a resource is shared by a diverse group of stakeholders (e.g., local resource users, research scientists, community members with traditional knowledge, government representatives, etc.), decision-making is better informed and more options exist for testing policies.Active adaptive management whereby management actions are designed as experiments encourages learning and novelty, thus increasing resilience in social-ecological systems.