, Volume 8, Issue 8, pp 945–957 | Cite as

A Systems Model Approach to Determining Resilience Surrogates for Case Studies

  • E. M. BennettEmail author
  • G. S. Cumming
  • G. D. Peterson


Resilience theory offers a framework for understanding the dynamics of complex systems. However, operationalizing resilience theory to develop and test empirical hypotheses can be difficult. We present a method in which simple systems models are used as a framework to identify resilience surrogates for case studies. The process of constructing a systems model for a particular case offers a path for identifying important variables related to system resilience, including the slowly-changing variables and thresholds that often are keys to understanding the resilience of a system. We develop a four-step process for identifying resilience surrogates through development of systems models. Because systems model development is often a difficult step, we summarize four basic existing systems models and give examples of how each may be used to identify resilience surrogates. The construction and analysis of simple systems models provides a useful basis for guiding and directing the selection of surrogate variables that will offer appropriate empirical measures of resilience.

Key words:

resilience thresholds archetypes complex systems social-ecological systems ecosystem management vulnerability system models 



We dedicate this paper to the memory of Gerhard Petschel-Held, a colleague and friend whose work on syndromes of global change greatly influenced our thinking about resilience surrogates. His adventurous spirit, clarity of thought, and humor are deeply missed. Additionally, we thank three anonymous reviewers whose comments improved this manuscript. We also thank our colleagues in the Resilience Alliance for the many conversations that stimulated our thinking about resilience and its surrogates.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for LimnologyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Wildlife Ecology and ConservationUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Geography and McGill School of EnvironmentMcGill UniversityCanada

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