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A Handful of Heuristics and Some Propositions for Understanding Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems

Brian Walker, CSIRO
Lance Gunderson, Emory Universitry
Ann Kinzig, Arizona State University
Carl Folke, Stockholm University
Steve Carpenter, University of Wisconsin
Lisen Schultz, Stockholm University


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This paper is a work-in-progress account of ideas and propositions about resilience in social-ecological systems. It articulates our understanding of how these complex systems change and what determines their ability to absorb disturbances in either their ecological or their social domains. We call them “propositions” because, although they are useful in helping us understand and compare different social-ecological systems, they are not sufficiently well defined to be considered formal hypotheses. These propositions were developed in two workshops, in 2003 and 2004, in which participants compared the dynamics of 15 case studies in a wide range of regions around the world. The propositions raise many questions, and we present a list of some that could help define the next phase of resilience-related research.

Key words

resilience; social-ecological systems; change; propositions; synthesis; theory; adaptatability; transformability

Copyright © 2006 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