Ecosystems

, Volume 8, Issue 8, pp 975–987 | Cite as

An Exploratory Framework for the Empirical Measurement of Resilience

  • G. S. Cumming
  • G. Barnes
  • S. Perz
  • M. Schmink
  • K. E. Sieving
  • J. Southworth
  • M. Binford
  • R. D. Holt
  • C. Stickler
  • T. Van  Holt
Article

Abstract

Deliberate progress towards the goal of long-term sustainability depends on understanding the dynamics of linked social and ecological systems. The concept of social-ecological resilience holds promise for interdisciplinary syntheses. Resilience is a multifaceted concept that as yet has not been directly operationalized, particularly in systems for which our ignorance is such that detailed, parameter-rich simulation models are difficult to develop. We present an exploratory framework as a step towards the operationalization of resilience for empirical studies. We equate resilience with the ability of a system to maintain its identity, where system identity is defined as a property of key components and relationships (networks) and their continuity through space and time. Innovation and memory are also fundamental to understanding identity and resilience. By parsing our systems into the elements that we subjectively consider essential to identity, we obtain a small set of specific focal variables that reflect changes in identity. By assessing the potential for changes in identity under specified drivers and perturbations, in combination with a scenario-based approach to considering alternative futures, we obtain a surrogate measure of the current resilience of our study system as the likelihood of a change in system identity under clearly specified conditions, assumptions, drivers and perturbations. Although the details of individual case studies differ, the concept of identity provides a level of generality that can be used to compare measure of resilience across cases. Our approach will also yield insights into the mechanisms of change and the potential consequences of different policy and management decisions, providing a level of decision support for each case study area.

Keywords

resilience infrastructure connectivity networks identity social-ecological system interdisciplinary scenario 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. S. Cumming
    • 1
  • G. Barnes
    • 2
  • S. Perz
    • 5
  • M. Schmink
    • 6
  • K. E. Sieving
    • 1
  • J. Southworth
    • 3
  • M. Binford
    • 3
  • R. D. Holt
    • 4
  • C. Stickler
    • 4
  • T. Van  Holt
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Wildlife Ecology and ConservationUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Geomatics ProgramUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of ZoologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  5. 5.Department of SociologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  6. 6.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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