Resilience and Sustainable Development – Building Adaptive Capacity in a World of Transformations by The Resilience Alliance
At the dawn of this millennium human use of natural resources is changing the world, its atmosphere and climate, its human and non-human inhabitants, its land surfaces and waters. We face different, more variable environments with greater uncertainty about how ecosystems will respond to inevitable increases in levels of use. At the same time we are reducing the capacity of systems to cope with disturbance.
Development challenges now evident in both rich and poor nations, with millions of people in scores of regions caught up in enormous ecological and social changes, are full of surprises and uncertainties . . . . which demands strategies for adaptation to uncertainty in contrast to the conventional emphasis on optimisation based on prediction . . . . To quote a decision-maker in a large multinational firm: “The future is moving so quickly that you can’t anticipate it . . . We have put a tremendous emphasis on quick response instead of planning. We will continue to be surprised, but we won’t be surprised that we are surprised. We will anticipate the surprise”
A minimal integrated solution would involve selected social, economic and ecological actions at the appropriate scales. Because surprise is certain, the integration should be loose and adaptive, based not only on information and knowledge but also on understanding and wisdom.
Diversity is conserved to maintain and encourage adaptive and learning capabilities. Diversity of species performing critical functions, diversity of knowledge, institutions and human opportunity and diversity of economic supports all have the potential to contribute to sustainability and adaptive opportunity.
Human society is part of the biosphere and societies are embedded in ecological systems. The diversity of biotic systems across scales, from genes to landscapes, and the ecosystem services they generate, provides the basic foundation on which social and economic development depends.
Thus a fundamental challenge is to change perceptions and mind-sets, among actors and across all sectors of society, from the over-riding goal of increasing productive capacity to one of increasing adaptive capacity, from the view of humanity as independent of nature to one of humanity and nature as co-evolving in a dynamic fashion within the biosphere.
The Concept of Resilience
Resilience provides the capacity to absorb shocks while maintaining function. When change occurs, resilience provides the components for renewal and reorganisation. In a resilient system, change has the
potential to create opportunity for development, novelty and innovation. In a vulnerable system even
small changes may be devastating . . . . The less resilient the system, the lower is the capacity of institutions and societies to adapt to and shape change . . . . Diversity in social-ecological systems can enhance resilience . . . . Managing for resilience is therefore not only an issue of sustaining capacity and options for development, now and in the future, but also an issue of environmental, social and economic security.
THE CONTEXT AND THE CHALLENGE
THE CONTEXT – Complex Adaptive Systems
All ecosystems are exposed to gradual changes in climate, nutrient loading, habitat fragmentation or biotic exploitation. Nature has usually been assumed to respond to gradual change in a smooth way. However, sudden drastic switches to a contrasting state can interrupt smooth change, with serious social and economic consequences.
The earlier world-view of nature and society as systems near equilibrium is being replaced by a dynamic view, which emphasizes complex non-linear relations between entities under continuous change and facing discontinuities and uncertainty from complexes or suites of synergistic stresses and shocks.
Complex systems are self-organizing. Self-organization is when the macroscopic system properties and patterns that emerge from the interactions among components feedback to influence the subsequent development of those interactions. Self-organization creates systems far from equilibrium, characterized by multiple possible outcomes of management.
A long-term perspective suggests that stability in the management of complex systems is an illusion that disappears when one chooses a scale of perception commensurate with the phenomena under investigation. A long view also highlights the importance of scale interactions across time and space in relation to adaptive renewal cycles of exploitation, conservation, release and reorganization in social and ecological systems . . . . A fundamental challenge in this context is to raise awareness of the long view. We should build knowledge, incentives, and learning capabilities into institutions and organisations for managing the capacity of local, regional and global ecosystems to sustain human well-being in the face of complexity and change.
The dynamic view of nature and society also has major implications for economic valuation and policy . . . . Sudden and abrupt change has major implications for policies on production, consumption and international trade. It has also major implications for economic policy, like taxes on resource use or emissions. Because of the complex dynamics, optimal management will be difficult if not impossible to implement.
Attempts to manage social and economic capacity to adapt to and shape change cannot easily be done
by dividing the world into economic sectors. Examples such as the following approaches misses too many interactions:
Freshwater should not be viewed simply as an economic good to be consumed in households, industry or through irrigation of cropland but rather should be (viewed in) its diverse functional roles in sustaining resilience and supporting ecosystem production.
Focusing on economic growth to eradicate poverty, disconnected or decoupled from the environmental resource base on which it ultimately depends, is also a wrong approach
Focusing on technical solutions to make societal development independent of nature will not lead to sustainable solutions
Instead, capacity needs to be managed in an integrated and flexible manner at appropriate spatial and time
scales . . . . to tune and create synergies between economic development, technological change and the dynamic capacity of the natural resource base to support social and economic development.
Adaptive capacity is the ability of a social-ecological system to cope with novel situations without
losing options for the future, and resilience is key to enhancing adaptive capacity . . . . Systems with high adaptive capacity are able to re-configure themselves without significant declines in crucial functions in relation to primary productivity, hydrological cycles, social relations and economic prosperity. A consequence of a loss of resilience, and therefore of adaptive capacity, is loss of opportunity, constrained options during periods of re-organisation and renewal, an inability of the system to do different things. And the effect of this is for the social-ecological system to emerge from such a period along an undesirable trajectory.
(There are) four critical factors that interact across temporal and spatial scales and that seem to be required for dealing with natural resource dynamics during periods of change and reorganization:
Learning to live with change and uncertainty; Robust, adaptive strategies of social-ecological systems accept uncertainty and change, take advantage of it and turn it into opportunities for development. Many traditional societies and local communities have long recognized developed institutions that have accumulated a knowledge base for how to relate to and respond to environmental feedback, and allow for disturbance to enter at smaller scales instead of accumulating to larger scales, thereby precluding large-scale collapse. Such management practices seem to have developed as a result of selection through experience with change and crisis, realizing that not all possible outcomes can be anticipated, planned or predicted. In modern societies some of the same mechanisms have evolved from slow cultural adaptation. Addition of a 3-5 year election cycle in democratic societies, for example, adds a new scale of opportunity for evaluation and change
Nurturing diversity for resilience; Diversity is not just insurance against uncertainty and surprise. It also provides a mix of components whose history and accumulated experience helps cope with change, and facilitates redevelopment and innovation following disturbance and crisis. Social and institutional learning based on such experience of crises and surprises may help avoid shifts in ecosystems to less valuable states. In this sense, institutions emerge as a response to crisis and are reshaped by crisis. Diversity and an apparent redundancy of institutions (in the sense of overlapping functions) appears to play a central role in absorbing disturbances, spreading risks, creating novelty and reorganizing following disturbances. This is analogous to the functional diversity and apparent redundancy (or response diversity) of species and their functions, that will be described in the later section on ecosystem capacity and biological diversity.
Combining different types of knowledge for learning; Scientific understandings of complex adaptive systems can be enriched by insights from local communities and traditional societies with an experience and historical continuity in ecosystem management . . . . Combining different ways of knowing and learning will permit different social actors to work in concert, even with much uncertainty and limited information.
Creating opportunity for self-organization towards social-ecological sustainability; The fourth factor brings together the first three in the context of self-organization. Sustaining the capacity for a dynamic interplay between diversity and disturbance is an essential part of self-organization. The learning process is of central importance for social-ecological capacity to build resilience. Learning includes the use of monitoring to generate and refine ecological knowledge and understanding into management institutions and future action. Such learning approaches are present in adaptive co-management, a process by which institutional arrangements and ecological knowledge are tested and revised in a dynamic, ongoing, self-organized process of trial-and-error. The existence of institutions and networks that learn and store knowledge and experience (also) creates flexibility in problem solving and balance power among interest groups play an important role in adaptive capacity.
THE CHALLENGE – What to Sustain and Why?
Social-ecological resilience in one time period was gained at the expense of the succeeding period. Similarly, resilience at one spatial extent can be subsidized from a broader scale, a common pattern in human cultural evolution. Through the use and dependence on fossil fuels and freshwater reservoirs, current social-ecological systems are subsidized by resources from a past era and from distant places . . . . Hence, to judge whether or not social-ecological resilience is sustained or erodes it is necessary to address and understand transfers across spatial scales and time periods.
Human drivers of ecosystem change are deeply embedded in cultural values and underlying perceptions, and economic production systems and lifestyles, mediated by institutional factors. Urbanization and many aspects of globalization tend to distance people from their relation to ecosystem support by disconnecting production from consumption and production of knowledge from its application. People become alienated from their dependence on access to resources and ecosystem functions outside the boundaries of their own jurisdiction.
To build resilience for social-ecological sustainability we need first to clarify the human-nature relation, and identify what to sustain and why.
Nature and humanity as one system
Throughout history humanity has shaped nature and nature has shaped the development of human society . . . . Hence, these are neither natural or pristine systems, nor are there social systems without nature. Instead humanity and nature have been co-evolving, for good or ill, in a dynamic fashion and will continue to do so.
Human actions are a major structuring factor in the dynamics of ecological systems.
The human footprint has expanded at an accelerating rate, from local to global scales, during the last half of the 20th century. Land-use and land-cover changes by humans now significantly affect key aspects of Earth System functioning including climate change. Chemical pollution is no longer only a local problem. The sheer magnitude of the production and application of chemicals has reached global dimensions . . . . During the 20th century the human population increased by a factor 4, the urban population by a factor of 13, water use by a factor 9, sulphur dioxide emissions 13, carbon dioxide emissions 17, marine fish catch 35 and industrial output 40 times.
Humanity is a keystone species and may even be the world’s dominant evolutionary force. In the present era of a human dominated biosphere, co-evolution now takes place also at the planetary level and at a much more rapid and unpredictable pace than previously in human history and many ecosystems require human intervention to be sustained.
Human dependence on ecosystem services and support
Societal development depends on the generation of ecosystem goods such as food, timber, genetic resources, and medicines, and services such as water purification, flood control, carbon sequestration, pollination, seed dispersal, soil formation, disease regulation, nutrient assimilation and the provision of aesthetic and cultural benefits.
Investments in wetland functioning to gain one ecosystem service like nitrogen cleansing often generate several other valuable services like fodder for animals, bird watching, sport fishing and other recreational and tourism values, due to the multifunctional nature of ecosystems . . . . In 1996, New York City invested between $1billion and $1.5 billion in restoration of a watershed in the Catskill mountains to provide freshwater to the city. The alternative capital cost of building a filtration plant would have been about 5-6 times larger, plus annual operational costs of about $300 million . . . . However, the value of ecosystem services is not only an issue of economic and technical trade off. Societal development depends on ecosystem support irrespective of whether or not this is recognized in human preferences.
As a specific example of human dependence on ecosystem support, the city of Hong Kong requires ecosystem work over an area that is 2200 times its built-up land to support its inhabitants with essential ecosystem goods and services. Thirty percent of this support is derived from Chinese ecosystems, and 95% of its seafood supply is obtained from marine waters of other nations.
Each city inhabitant depends on ecosystem work over an area of about 220,000-225,000 m2, drawing on the work of nature from all over the planet. It is in the self-interest of the city inhabitants to sustain the capacity of ecosystems to supply this support, and not only within national boundaries but also in regions from where this support is derived.
Focusing on the production of ecosystem goods or valuation of ecosystem services will not lead to sustainable use by itself, because it does not address the dynamic capacity of ecosystems to uphold the supply of these goods and services. The challenge is to sustain the capacity, here referred to as resilience, through active management in order to secure prosperous social and economic development.
PROCESSES AND MECHANISMS BEHIND RESILIENCE AND VULNERABILITY
Structural Premises – Biological Diversity and Ecosystem Adaptive Capacity
Biological diversity and ecosystem functioning
Diversity plays a significant role in sustaining the resilience of ecosystems . . . . This role is related to the diversity of functional groups of species in a system, like organisms that pollinate, graze, predate, fix nitrogen, spread seeds, decompose, generate soils, modify water flows, open up patches for reorganization and contribute to the colonization of such patches.
Vertebrates that eat fruit, like flying foxes, play a key role in the regeneration of tropical forests hit by disturbance such as hurricanes and fire by bringing in seeds from surrounding ecosystems for renewal and reorganization. In these examples the loss of the functional groups will severely affect the capacity of ecosystems to reorganize after disturbance.
Conversely, in systems that lack a specific functional group, the addition of just one species may dramatically change the structure and functioning of ecosystems. In Hawaii, the introduced nitrogen-fixing tree Myrica faya has in a dramatic way changed the structure and functioning in many ecosystems where no native nitrogen fixing species had been present. Once established, M. faya, can increase nitrogen inputs up to five-times, thereby facilitating establishment of other exotic species.
Diversity as insurance
Resilience does not only depend on the diversity of functional groups in ecosystems. It is also related to the number of species within a functional group and the overlapping functions among groups (a species may perform several functions, like birds that both spread seeds and pollinate plants). Species within the same functional group appear to respond differently to environmental change, a property we call response diversity.
In semiarid rangelands, for example, resilience of production to grazing pressure is achieved by maintaining a high number of apparently less important and less common, or apparently “redundant”, species from the perspective of those who want to maximize production, each with different capacities to respond to different combinations of rainfall and grazing pressures. They replace each other over time, ensuring maintenance of rangeland function over a range of environmental conditions
Hence, a resilient ecosystem contains functional groups with several species that perform a similar function, but respond in different ways to environmental changes . . . . In areas where humans reduce response diversity by decreasing biodiversity and favoring monocultures, the capacity of ecosystems to sustain society with goods and services becomes more vulnerable to disturbances and environmental, social or political change.
Diversity of functionally different kinds of species affected the rates of recovery and increased the reliability of ecosystem processes . . . . biodiversity at larger spatial scales, i.e. landscapes and regions, ensures that appropriate key species for ecosystem functioning are recruited to local systems after disturbance or when environmental conditions change . . . . Biodiversity in reservers (e.g. national parks) contribute to ecosystem resilience, but they need to be complemented with biodiversity management in humandominated landscapes . . . . Erosion of functional diversity and response diversity may lead to vulnerability, alterations in nature’s capacity to supply society with essential ecosystem services and support, and degraded social-ecological regimes . . . . In this sense biological diversity provides insurance, flexibility and risk spreading across scales.
The Dynamics – Shifts between Ecosystem States
There is increasing evidence that ecosystems often do not respond to gradual change in a smooth way. Studies of rangelands, coral reefs, forests, lakes and oceans show that human induced loss of resilience can lead to sudden switches to alternative states, triggered by stochastic events like storms or fire.
In lakes, water clarity often seems to be hardly affected by increased human-induced nutrient
concentrations until a critical threshold is passed at which point the lake shifts abruptly from clear to
turbid, eutrophied waters . . . . The economic and social intervention involved in such a restoration (to previous desirable state) will be complex and expensive.
A continental scale example of an irreversible shift seems to have occurred in Australia, where overhunting and use of fire by humans, some thirty to forty thousand years ago, removed large marsupial herbivores and accumulated nutrients. Without large herbivores to prevent and fragment vegetation, an ecosystem of fire and fire-dominated plants could expand, irreversibly switching the system from a more productive state, dependent on rapid nutrient cycling, to a less productive state, with slower nutrient cycling maintained by fire.
An interesting “experiment” was created in Venezuela, where a set of islands was created by a hydroelectric impoundment. The islands were free of top predators and populations of seed predators and herbivores subsequently increased by a factor 10 to 100 compared to nearby mainland sites, with severe reductions in densities of seedlings and saplings of canopy tree species as a result. This study suggests that removal of predators may result in trophic cascades in the terrestrial ecosystem, affecting the densities and species composition of both herbivores and plants and significantly changing the structure and functioning of the ecosystem.
It is becoming increasingly clear that complex biotic interactions are much more important in driving oceanic community dynamics than previously thought, and that biological diversity plays a significant role in this context. Human fishing pressure can affect the entire foodweb, causing profound shifts in species abundance at various trophic levels . . . . Global fisheries impacts are reflected in the industrial fishing down of marine food webs in a transition from long-lived, high trophic level fish to short-lived, low trophic level invertebrates and small plankton eating pelagic fish.
Historical overfishing by humans of coastal ecosystems has led to a sequential reduction of functional groups of species (mammals, turtles, fish) and removal of entire trophic levels, thereby creating more vulnerable and fragile coastal ecosystems. The loss of functional diversity and response diversity through fishing over human history, with escalating exploitation during the last half century, has paved the way for impacts such as eutrophication, algal blooms, disease outbreaks, and species introductions in coastal areas
Creating Vulnerability through Loss of Resilience
These example highlights one important reason why individual regions, and the world as a whole, need to increase attention to resilience: To provide a buffering against effects of climate change.
All the evidence from climate change research suggests that the frequency of major climate events (perturbations) will increase, as expressed in changes in the current variation in climate regimes. The IPCC 2001 Working Group I report concludes that, in addition to projected warming scenarios for various regions, there will be changes in the variability of climate and in the frequencies and intensities of some climate phenomena. Examples include extreme events of drought, rainfall and major floods and spread and emergence of diseases. The Working Group II report on impacts and adaptation concludes that these changes will have very significant impacts on many of the world’s ecosystems, including agro-ecosystems.
Hence, ecosystems with low resilience may still maintain function and generate resources and ecosystem services – i.e. may seem to be in good shape – but when subject to disturbances and stochastic events, they may exceed a critical threshold and change to a less desirable state. These shifts are sometimes irreversible and in other cases the costs (in time and resources) of reversal are so large that reversal is impractical.
Such shifts may significantly constrain options for social and economic development, reduce options for livelihoods, and create environmental refugees as a consequence of the impact on ecosystem life-support.
Erosion of resilience causing vulnerability in livelihoods
For example, in the Argolid valley of Greece, people speak of an environmental crisis because there is not enough water to continue irrigating the citrus crops that were planted in the valley about 40 years ago. As a consequence of citrus irrigation, the water table in some parts of the valley has dropped up to seven meters a year, and now water is pumped at the valley?fs edge from depths as great as 400 meters. Hence, the environmental crisis is caused by the intensive cultivation system itself, driven by an industrial perspective of agriculture.
Another current major problem is the large-scale salinization of land and rivers in Australia. Extensive land clearing during the last two hundred years has changed ecosystem structure and processes and altered the hydrological-ecological dynamics of the Australian continent. In particular, European introduced agriculture removed native woody vegetation for annual crops and grasses that transpire much less water. Thereby, more water is leaching down through the soils causing water tables to rise. The Australian soils are saline. The increased water movement through the soils mobilizes salts. This causes problems with salinity both in rivers and at, or close to, the soil surface severely reducing the capacity for growth of most plants.
About 5.7 million hectares are currently at risk of dryland salinity and this could rise to over 17 million hectares by 2050. The costs of salinization are manifested as production loss due to saline river water, health hazards, production loss in agricultural lands and destruction of infrastructure in rural and urban areas. Added to these are the less well-known costs due to loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in both terrestrial and aquatic environments. Hence, the terrestrial support capacity for societal development in Australia has been reduced through unexpected changes in ecosystem processes, as a consequence of management.
Water vapour from terrestrial ecosystems is the engine that recycles moisture to the atmosphere, which replenishes the atmospheric moisture content, and in this way sustains rainfall. In the Sahel belt 90% of the rainfall stems from continental water vapour. A sequence of dry years, as was experienced during the 1980s, accelerates the process of desertification; during dry years, people expand their forest clearing activities even more, which exacerbates the loss of moisture recycling. As a consequence of reduced moisture recycling the drought period is prolonged. Hence, land degradation led to the persistence of drought.
There are substantial local benefits to be gained from improved soil and water management. Conservation farming practices, where conventional tillage is abandoned in favour of minimum or zero tillage practices that maximize crop nutrient and water availability, are examples of affordable and appropriate technologies that can contribute to both reduced poverty and increased resilience. Rainwater harvesting systems, where surface runoff flow is used for productive purposes for dry spell mitigation, can be used to improve crop productivity while conserving soil and water. Dry spell mitigation in semi-arid and dry sub-humid tropics is an important adaptation that increases social resilience and which in arid and semi-arid regions of North Africa and the Middle East has formed the basis for the establishment of sedentary societies.
Loss of livelihood and increased conflict
Losses of livelihood constitute an oftenmissing link in explanations of current conflict patterns. A common denominator for many, if not most, of the internal wars and conflicts plaguing Africa, South Asia, and Latin America during the last decade, is poverty as a result of loss of livelihoods, in turn often caused or exacerbated by environmental degradation.
While poverty may be a nearendemic condition in certain societies, loss of livelihood marks a rapid transition from a previously stable condition of relative welfare into a condition of poverty or destitution. It is this rapid process of change, resulting in a sudden and unexpected fall into poverty, more than the endemic condition of poverty, which creates the potential for what rightly may be termed livelihood conflicts.
MANAGING FOR SOCIAL-ECOLOGICAL RESILIENCE AND SUSTAINABILITY
Wrong Focus of Management
Many approaches to development are partial and short term. They represent application of good economics or good engineering or good environmental protection to large problems and opportunities that have high uncertainties. Human simplification of landscapes and seascapes for production of particular target resources to be traded on markets has stabilized resource flows in the short term, at the expense of suppressed disturbance, reduced diversity, and eventually, eroded resilience. These are done for example, through:
controlling agricultural pests through herbicides and pesticides;
converting multispecies variable-aged forests into monocultures of single-aged plantations;
hunting and killing predators to produce a larger, more reliable supply of game species;
suppressing fires and pest outbreaks in forests to ensure a steady lumber supply;
clearing forests for pasture development to achieve constantly high cattle production
Short-term success of increasing yield in homogenized environments reinforces mental models of human development as being superior and largely independent of nature’s services. According to this thinking, nature can indeed be conquered, controlled and ruled. Technology, based on this perspective, further masks the feedback from the environment, contributing to an accumulation of the feedback at larger spatial scales and longer temporal scales. Short-term success makes navigating nature’s dynamics appear to be a non-issue and as a consequence knowledge, incentives and institutions for monitoring and responding to environmental feedback erode. Societies become vulnerable without recognizing it.
Resilience measures differ from most existing sustainability indicators. Resilience focuses on variables that underlie the capacity of social-ecological systems to provide ecosystem services, whereas other indicators tend to concentrate on the current state of the system or service. Management that monitors, clarifies, and redirects underlying, fundamental variables may succeed in building resilience, and thereby adaptive capacity . . . . efforts to reduce the risk of undesired shifts between ecosystem states should address the gradual changes that affect resilience rather than trying to control disturbance and fluctuations.
Successful ecosystem management requires monitoring and ecological understanding and institutional capacity to respond to environmental feedback and the political will and perception to make such management possible. By responding to and managing feedbacks from complex adaptive ecosystem, instead of blocking them out, adaptive management has the potential to avoid the pathology of natural resource management that threatens the existence of many social and economic activities.
Adaptive Management and Flexible Institutions
Adaptive capacity is closely related to learning, and learning is central to the notion of adaptive management. Adaptive management proceeds by a design that simultaneously allows for tests of different management policies and emphasizes learning as we use and manage resources, monitoring and accumulating knowledge on the way, and constantly adjusting the rules that shape our behavior to match the dynamics and uncertainty inherent in the system. The adaptive management approach treats policies as hypotheses, and management as experiments from which managers can learn, accepting uncertainty and expecting surprises.
Ecological resilience maintains the capacity for institutional learning in a dynamic environment by providing a buffer that protects the system from the failure of management actions that are based upon incomplete understanding. It thereby allows managers to learn and to actively adapt their resource management policies. In other words, those participating in adaptive management expect to continually monitor the system they are managing, and in doing so they expand and enrich their understanding of the dynamics of the system. Management decisions are regularly revisited and changed as knowledge advances.
As it proceeds in a stepwise fashion, responding to changes and guided by feedback from resource dynamics, adaptive management allows for institutional and social learning, developing a collective memory of experiences. This memory provides context for social responses to ecosystem change, increases the likelihood of flexible and adaptive responses, particularly during periods of crisis and reorganization. Adaptive management therefore draws on experience but allows for novelty and innovation. It provides a repertoire of general design principles that can be drawn on by resource users at multiple levels to aid in the crafting of new institutions to cope with changing situations.
There are indigenous and traditional ecological knowledge-based systems that parallel adaptive management in their reliance on learning-by-doing, and the use of feedback from the environment to provide corrections for management practice. They rely on the accumulation of knowledge over many generations. This knowledge is transmitted culturally. Such systems differ from technically-based systems in that they do not rest solely, or even primarily, on testable hypotheses and generalizable theories. Instead, they integrate moral and religious belief systems with management, though in many cases such belief systems have “co-evolved” to be sensitive to the attributes of the ecological system upon which the people are relying.
Multi-level Governance and Institutional Change
Flexible social networks and organizations that proceed through learning-by-doing are better adapted for long-term survival than are rigid social systems that have set prescriptions for resource use . . . . A growing literature on polycentric institutions is demonstrating that dynamic efficiency is frequently thwarted by creating centralized institutions and enhanced by systems of governance that exist at multiple levels with some degree of autonomy complemented by modest overlaps in authority and capability. A diversified decision-making structure allows for testing of rules at different scales and contributes to the creation of an institutional dynamics important in adaptive management.
The challenge for management is to develop institutional structures that match ecological and social processes operating at different spatial and temporal scales and addressing linkages between those scales.
Therefore, an important part of adaptive management is to encourage local organizations to interact with each other and with organizations at other levels. Adaptive management would be enhanced by linking institutions both horizontally (across space) and vertically (across levels of organization). Multi-level governance of complex ecosystems needs constant adjustment, which requires innovation and experimentation. The social change included devolution of management rights which provided an arena for local users to self-organize and developed, refine, and implement rules for ecosystem management. Not only do these people respond to change but by doing so they build adaptive capacity to deal with future change in the multi-level governance system . . . . scenario exercises (through assessment of the fundamental variables and branch points) are a useful mechanism for building understanding (of alternative futures) and flexibility toward adaptive change.
Working with such “open institutions” is essential for dealing with ambiguity of multiple objectives, uncertainty and the possibility of surprising outcomes.
Adaptive co-management draws on accumulated social-ecological experience and is informed by both practice and theory. It relies on the participation of a diverse set of interest groups operating at different scales, from local users, to municipalities, to regional and national organizations, and occasionally also international networks and bodies.
Diversity in functions and in response among local level resource management systems, from the individual level to organizational and institutional levels , enhances performance so long as there are overlapping units of government that can resolve conflicts, aggregate knowledge across scale, and insure that when problems occur in smaller units, a larger unit can temporarily step in. Governance for linking global and local scales should utilize boundary organizations, utilize scale-dependent comparative advantages, and employ adaptive assessment and management strategies. Such cross-scale governance should focus on nurturing ecosystem states that generate essential support to society.
Ecological knowledge and understanding of resource and ecosystem dynamics among resource users and other interest groups, its incorporation into resource-use practices and institutions, its temporal and spatial transmission and transformation, and its re-creation through cycles of crises and re-organization needs to be nurtured to counteract the creation of social-ecological vulnerability.
CONCLUDING REMARKS AND POLICY IMPLICATIONS
Two useful tools for resilience-building in complex, unpredictable systems are structured scenarios and active adaptive management. Structured scenarios attempt to envision alternative futures in ways that expose fundamental variables and branch points that may be collectively manipulated to evoke change. Active adaptive management seeks a set of structured management experiments designed to reveal fundamental variables and system potential. These techniques should be encouraged and expanded to help increase capacity to build resilience. They require, and facilitate, a social context with flexible and open institutions and multi-level governance systems that allow for learning and that build adaptive capacity without constraining future development options.
Managing for social-ecological resilience requires understanding of ecosystem dynamics, incorporating also the knowledge and wisdom of local users and interest groups. Consequently, the spread of ecological illiteracy in contemporary society needs to be counteracted. Outdated perceptions of humanity as decoupled from, and in control of, the processes of the biosphere will foster vulnerability and large-scale surprise and counteract sustainability. Instead, technological development and economic policies need to contribute to building resilience, founded on a perception of coevolving social-ecological systems from local to global scales.
At least three general policy recommendations can be drawn from the synthesis of resilience in the context of sustainable development. The first level emphasizes the importance of policy that highlights interrelationships between the biosphere and the prosperous development of society. The second stresses the necessity of policy to create space for flexible and innovative collaboration towards sustainability, and the third suggests a few policy directions for how to operationalize sustainability in the context of social-ecological resilience.
Policy should strengthen the perception of humanity and nature as interdependent and interacting and stimulate development that enhances resilience in social-ecological systems, recognizing the existence of ecological threshold, uncertainty and surprise.
Policy should stimulate the creation of arenas for flexible collaboration and management of socialecological systems, with open institutions that allow for learning and build adaptive capacity. Policy frameworks with clear directions for action towards building adaptive capacity and thus social-ecological sustainability are required in this context. They create action platforms for adaptive management processes and flexible multi-level governance that can learn, generate knowledge and cope with change. Such systems generate a diversity of management options of significance for responding to uncertainty and surprise.
Policy should stimulate the development of indicators of gradual change and early warning signals of loss of resilience and possible threshold effects. Policy should encourage monitoring of key ecosystem variables and aim to manage diversity for insurance to cope with uncertainty. Policy should stimulate ecosystem friendly technology and the use of economic incentives to enhance resilience and adaptive capacity. The development of monocultures should be avoided. Policy should provide incentives that encourage learning and build ecological knowledge into institutional structures in multi-level governance. Policy should invite participation by resources users and other interest groups and their ecological knowledge. Structured scenarios and active adaptive management processes should be implemented.
We have emphasized that managing for resilience enhances the likelihood of sustaining development in changing environments where the future is unpredictable. More resilient social-ecological systems are able to absorb larger shocks without changing in fundamental ways. Resilience-building policy attempts to increase the range of surprises with which a socio-economic system can cope. It also conserves and nurtures the diversity of species, of human opportunity, of learning institutions and of economic options . that is necessary to renew, reorganize and adapt to unexpected and transformative circumstances.
(This is a summary of the full report)
Keywords : one world, civilization, complex system, unity in diversity, diversity, sustainability, resilience, ecosocial crisis, economic growth, monoculture, participatory democracy, appropriate scitech, commons, earth, community development, education, co-intelligence, industrialism, capitalism, politics, democracy
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