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Resilience-performance trade-offs in managing social-ecological systems

Mehran Homayounfar, Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, University of Florida
Rachata Muneepeerakul, Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, University of Florida
John M Anderies, School of Human Evolution and Social Change and School of Sustainability, Arizona State University


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Resilience-based approaches have been attracting attention in governing social-ecological systems facing rapid social and environmental changes. In this article, we investigate the governance policies that focus on resilience. Our analysis is built on a stylized dynamical model that mathematically operationalizes a widely used conceptual framework, which links social components, natural resources, and infrastructure in social-ecological systems. Specifically, we numerically solve the Hamilton-Jacobi-Bellman (HJB) equation to determine policies—in the form of investment in public infrastructure—that maximize a quantitative metric of the system’s resilience. For comparison purposes, we also derive policies that maximize the system’s performance and discuss the differences between and implications of the two policies. The results showed that a policy that maximizes performance results in sub-optimal resilience and vice versa. Moreover, our sensitivity analysis suggests that managing resilience requires that one be more responsive to changes in external forcing.

Key words

dynamic optimization; ecological resilience; Hamilton-Jacobi-Bellman (HJB); resilience-based management; social-ecological systems (SESs)

Copyright © 2022 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087