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 change1. 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 and 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, and into the daily management activities and strategies. Including fish spawning aggregations in the design of MPAs, and MPA networks, is one example of managing for resilience.
Coral reef resilience is ultimately about coral reef health. Having a healthy ‘immune system’ will help coral communities withstand major stress events, such as those caused by warming seas, and recover rapidly from them. Building resilience into reef management will help build this immune system, and increase the likelihood that coral communities will continue to be highly valuable and productive systems.
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 should be adapted for the region or habitat of interest. For example, recent recommendations have been developed for building resilience into the management of mangrove communities.
The concept of resilience has also been applied to social systems, and how it relates to management of natural resources. Social resilience focuses on the ability of communities to adapt to and withstand institutional, environmental, and economic changes in their particular geography. Often these changes take the form of policies or regulations, with more resilient communities more likely to comply and sustain change.
Resilience of social systems is often related to three different characteristics2:
- the magnitude of shock that 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
Although this toolkit does not attempt to address the complexities of socio-ecological resilience, it is important for managers to use holistic strategies that acknowledge the importance of resilience, in both the natural resources they manage, and in the communities that will be affected by management actions.