What is Resilience?
Resilience refers to the ability of a system to maintain key functions and processes in the face of stresses or pressures by either resisting or adapting to change.1 There are two components of resilience: the ability to absorb or resist the impacts of stresses, such as mass bleaching or storms, and the ability to recover quickly from them. Resilience can be applied to both ecological systems as well as social systems. In this toolkit, resilience is used in the context of global climate change; however a resilience-based approach can be integrated into management of any natural system. For coral reef managers, emphasis is on building resilience into the design of MPAs and MPA networks, as well as daily management activities and strategies.
Coral reef resilience is ultimately about coral reef health. Having a healthy ‘immune system’ helps coral communities withstand major stress events such as warming seas and recover rapidly from them. Building resilience into reef management means helping to build this immune system, and increasing the likelihood that coral communities will continue to thrive.
Resilience can be applied to all marine systems—temperate, tropical, or polar. The general concepts and principles are the same across all areas, yet specific actions need to be adapted for the region or habitat of interest. For example, see recent recommendations for building resilience into the management of mangrove communities.
The concept of resilience has also been applied to social systems and how they relate to management of natural resources. Social resilience focuses on the resilience of communities in adapting to and withstanding institutional, environmental and economic changes in their location.2,3 Often these changes take the form of policies and regulations that alter long-standing local habits and practices with more resilient communities more likely to comply and sustain change. But most importantly, changes take the form of reduction in supply of goods and services as a result of ecosystem impacts from climate change.
Resilience of social systems is often related to three different characteristics3:
- the magnitude of shock the system can absorb and remain stable
- the degree to which the system is capable of self-organization
- the degree to which the system can build capacity for learning and adaptation
The section on Social Resilience describes the importance of using holistic strategies that acknowledge the importance of resilience in both natural resources and affected communities and provides recommendations on how to address the complexities of social-ecological resilience.