Finding 3.1. Resilience provides a useful conceptual framework for managing complex systems. It focuses attention on system dynamics and how systems are affected by short-term disturbances and long-term stresses.

In the context of resilience of the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) ecosystem, the committee was charged with addressing the following questions from the Statement of Task (see Chapter 1):

In light of the multiple stresses on the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, what practical approaches can managers take to restore and increase the resiliency of ecosystem services to future events such as the Deepwater Horizon Mississippi Canyon-252 spill? How can the increase in ecosystem resiliency be measured?

Although resilience is an important concept, much like the concept of ecosystem services, providing practical and specific advice to managers to “increase the resiliency of ecosystem services” is a difficult task at present. As noted above, managing resilience requires understanding of the dynamics of complex and highly variable systems, which is often quite limited. Without such understanding, it can be difficult in practical contexts to know how management actions affect resilience. Some researchers have gone so far as to state that resilience is “too vague of a concept to be useful in planning” or ecosystem management (Lindenmayer and Hunter, 2010).

Finding 3.2. Limited data and understanding of complex system dynamics make it difficult to provide specific practical advice to managers on how to restore or increase the resilience of ecosystem services.

The next section explores definitions of resilience, its application in ecosystems and in integrated social-ecological systems, and the relationship between resilience and provision of ecosystem services. The final sections discuss options to manage systems to enhance resilience and approaches to measuring changes in resilience.

RESILIENCE IN SOCIOECONOMIC SYSTEMS AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO ECOSYSTEM SERVICES

Defining Engineering and Ecological Resilience

The study of resilience emerged primarily in ecology, with initial applications focused on the resilience of ecosystems (Holling, 1973), but resilience is now used more broadly in ecology, economics, engineering, law, natural resource management, psychology, sociology, and other disciplines. The concept of resilience has been applied to ecological systems, social systems, and more recently to integrated social-ecological systems (Berkes and Folke, 1998; Berkes et al., 2003). With this expanded use of resilience has come multiple definitions of resilience. As long as each field of study used a definition that was well defined within the contexts of that field, few problems arose. However, in an interdisciplinary context such as the resilience of ecosys-



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement