Natural Hazards

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 317–336 | Cite as

Mountain hazards and the resilience of social–ecological systems: lessons learned in India and Canada

Original Paper


Mountain regions are subject to a variety of hazardous processes. Earthquakes, landslides, snow avalanches, floods, debris flows, epidemics and fires, among other processes, have caused injury, death, damage and destruction. They also face challenges from increased populations, and expansion and intensification of␣activities, land uses and infrastructure. The combination of a dynamic bio- geophysical environment and intensified human use has increased the vulnerability of mountain social–ecological systems to risk from hazards. The ability of social–ecological systems to build resilience in the context of hazards is an important factor in their long-term sustainability. The role of resilience building in understanding the impact of hazards in mountain areas is examined and illustrated, in part, through examples from Canada and India. Resilient social–ecological systems have the ability to learn and adjust, use all forms of knowledge, to self-organize and to develop positive institutional linkages with other social–ecological systems in the face of hazards. The analysis suggests that traditional social–ecological systems built resilience through avoidance, which was effective for localized hazards. The more recent development and implementation of cross-scale institutional linkages is shown to be a particularly effective means of resilience building in mountain social–ecological systems in the face of all hazards.


Mountains Hazards Vulnerability Resilience Social–ecological systems Institutional linkages 


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The research on which this article is based has been supported by grants to James Gardner by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, and the University of Manitoba. In-kind support has been provided by the University of Waterloo, the␣University of Calgary and the University of Manitoba. Julie Dekens has been supported by the Canada Research Chair in Community-Based Resource Management, held by Dr. Fikret Berkes, at the Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba. The support of these organizations and that of many colleagues and students is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Natural Resources Institute, Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth and ResourcesUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  2. 2.International Centre for Integrated Mountain DevelopmentKathmanduNepal

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