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Sustainability, Stability, and Resilience

Don Ludwig, University of British Columbia
Brian Walker, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
C. S. Holling, University of Florida


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The purpose of this essay is to define and refine the concepts of stability and resilience and to demonstrate their value in understanding the behavior of exploited systems. Some ecological systems display several possible stable states. They may also show a hysteresis effect in which, even after a long time, the state of the system may be partly determined by its history. The concept of resilience depends upon our objectives, the types of disturbances that we anticipate, control measures that are available, and the time scale of interest.

Key words

bifurcation; multiple stable states; resilience; stability.
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087