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A major challenge of the twenty-first century is ensuring an adequate and reliable flow of essential ecosystem services to meet the needs of the world's burgeoning and increasingly wealthy population. This challenge needs to be addressed in the face of rapidly changing social, technological and environmental conditions that characterize the world today. Social–ecological resilience is one fast-growing approach that attempts to inform this challenge and provide practical guidance to decision-makers and practitioners. The resilience approach views humans as part of the biosphere, and assumes that the resulting intertwined social–ecological systems behave as complex adaptive systems – i.e. they have the capacity to self-organize and adapt based on past experience, and are characterized by emergent and non-linear behaviour and inherent uncertainty. A rapidly growing body of research on resilience in social–ecological systems has proposed a variety of attributes that are important for enhancing resilience. This book aims to critically assess and synthesize this literature. In this chapter we introduce the resilience approach and the process by which we identified seven generic principles for enhancing the capacity of social–ecological systems to produce desired sets of ecosystem services in the face of disturbance and change.
CHALLENGES OF A RAPIDLY CHANGING WORLD
We live in an era of rapid and unprecedented change. The past century has seen the mass production and adoption of motor cars and telephones, a 15-fold increase in the global economy, large-scale conversion of land to agriculture and an increase in the global population from 1.6 billion people in 1900 to over 7 billion in 2011 (MA 2005a; Steffen et al. 2007) (Fig. 1.1). Despite ongoing challenges with addressing poverty, these rapid changes have brought huge benefits and dramatic improvements to many people's lives, particularly since the end of the Second World War in 1945 (MA 2005a; Steffen et al. 2007). Tellingly, for most of human history the average life expectancy was 20–30 years, reflecting the combined effects of poor nutrition, disease and warfare, especially on infant survival (Lancaster 1990).
This book synthesizes and reviews the evidence in support of seven generic principles for enhancing the resilience of ecosystem services, i.e. the capacity of a social–ecological system to sustain a desired set of ecosystem services in the face of disturbance and ongoing change. Although some principles are better established than others, there is evidence that all are important. At the same time, none of the principles are universally beneficial, and all require a nuanced understanding of how, when and where they apply. Furthermore, the principles are often highly interdependent. Context matters and promoting the enhanced resilience of ecosystem services depends as much on how the individual principles are applied as on achieving an appropriate combination of principles. The nature of social–ecological systems as interdependent complex adaptive systems calls for governance and management that enhances aspects of a social–ecological system that help shape trajectories in desirable directions and enable adaptive responses to unexpected events. The principles are thus not final outcomes in themselves but rather features relevant for building resilience that should be considered when designing governance structures and management policies. More research is needed to better understand the individual principles, how they interact and how they can be operationalized and applied in different contexts.
The degree to which humans are shaping ecosystems at local to global scales poses significant challenges in providing for the wellbeing of the planet's growing number of people (MA 2005; Martin 2007). One of the critical issues is ensuring the adequate and reliable provision of essential ecosystem services, such as freshwater, food and climate regulation, to meet the needs of society in a world that is expected to continue changing rapidly over the coming century. Social–ecological resilience is one growing body of research that seeks to provide insights and understanding to help address this challenge, premised on the assumption that the functioning of ecosystems and the provision of ecosystem services cannot be understood without accounting for the actions of people who live in these systems.
As both the societies and the world in which we live face increasingly rapid and turbulent changes, the concept of resilience has become an active and important research area. Reflecting the very latest research, this book provides a critical review of the ways in which resilience of social-ecological systems, and the ecosystem services they provide, can be enhanced. With contributions from leaders in the field, the chapters are structured around seven key principles for building resilience: maintain diversity and redundancy; manage connectivity; manage slow variables and feedbacks; foster complex adaptive systems thinking; encourage learning; broaden participation; and promote polycentric governance. The authors assess the evidence in support of these principles, discussing their practical application and outlining further research needs. Intended for researchers, practitioners and graduate students, this is an ideal resource for anyone working in resilience science and for those in the broader fields of sustainability science, environmental management and governance.