Resilient social-ecological systems

Written December, 2014

The relationships between humans and their environment are becoming increasingly interconnected. With a global population well over 7 billion and the desire for space in industrialized, sprawling areas on the rise, previously undisturbed ecosystems are now adapting to different social factors. While ecological resilience, or the ability of an ecosystem to respond to a natural disturbance such as earthquake or flood, has been better understood, the resiliency of a social-ecological system presents new problems for scientists and policymakers.

resiliant social-ecological systems

These complex and adaptive social-ecological systems are marked by regularly interacting biophysical and social factors, and have largely been excluded from studies that examine resiliency. Mainstream ecology often ignored humans in their studies, and social scientists rarely considered the environment, instead limiting their scope to humans. While fields like environmental ethics, political ecology, and ecological economics have tried to remedy this, the lack of research has made it difficult to explore issues of government accountability in building infrastructure that will facilitate better resiliency. As the scholarship increases at academic institutions, more news stories will discuss the contemporary impacts Read on for some background information on the science and emerging policy issues as these ecological systems become more prominent.

Scales and Models in Social-Ecological Systems

Scale Mismatches in Social-Ecological Systems: Causes, Consequences, and Solutions (Ecology and Society)

New Model Developed for Research into ‘Social-ecological Systems’ (Purdue)

Exploring Socio-Ecological Design With Mitchell Joachim (Huffington Post)

Big Data, Communities and Ethical Resilience: A Framework for Action (Rockefeller Foundation)

Background on the “BioEconomy,” the “Biosphere,” and Ecosystem Resilience

The Bioeconomy: A Primer

Stockholm Resilience

Building Resilience of Ecosystems for Adaptation (United Nations)

How Nature Stabilizes Ecosystems During Climate Extremes (Science 2.0)

Ecosystem Services and Resilience Framework (International Water Management Institute)

The Ethics of Social-Ecological Systems

How to Reach an Ecological Civilization (Truth Out)

A Handful of Heuristics and Some Propositions for Understanding Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems (Ecology and Society)

Thinking Like a City: Grounding Social-Ecological Resilience in Urban Land Ethic (Idaho Law Review) Paywall


Greater Biodiversity Makes Ecosystems More Resistant to Climate Change (Mongabay)

Quantifying Biodiversity for Building Resilience for Food Security in Urban Landscapes: Getting Down to Business (Ecology and Society)

Network and Political Responses to Social-Ecological Systems

Toward a Network Perspective of the Study of Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems (Ecology and Society)

Collapse and Reorganization in Social-Ecological Systems: Questions, Some Ideas, and Policy Implications (Ecology and Society)

Social-Ecological Marine Restoration (National Geographic)

Encouraging U.S. Infrastructure Investment (Code of Federal Regulations)

Incorporating Natural Infrastructure and Ecosystem Services in Federal Decision-Making (The White House)

Accelerating America’s Infrastructure Projects (The White House)