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Resilience and Vulnerability: Complementary or Conflicting Concepts?

Fiona Miller, Department of Resource Management and Geography, University of Melbourne
Henny Osbahr, School of Agriculture, Policy and Development and the Walker Institute for Climate Systems Research, University of Reading
Emily Boyd, Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds; Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University
Frank Thomalla, Stockholm Environment Institute (Asia); Department of Environment and Geography – Human Geography, Macquarie University
Sukaina Bharwani, Stockholm Environment Institute (Oxford)
Gina Ziervogel, Stockholm Environment Institute (Oxford); Climate Systems Analysis Group (CSAG), University of Cape Town
Brian Walker, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Australia; Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University
Jörn Birkmann, Institute for Environment and Human Security, United Nations University
Sander van der Leeuw, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University
Johan Rockström, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University; Stockholm Environmental Institute (Sweden)
Jochen Hinkel, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Tom Downing, Stockholm Environment Institute (Oxford)
Carl Folke, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University; The Beijer Institute, Stockholm University
Donald Nelson, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia; Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia


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Resilience and vulnerability represent two related yet different approaches to understanding the response of systems and actors to change; to shocks and surprises, as well as slow creeping changes. Their respective origins in ecological and social theory largely explain the continuing differences in approach to social-ecological dimensions of change. However, there are many areas of strong convergence. This paper explores the emerging linkages and complementarities between the concepts of resilience and vulnerability to identify areas of synergy. We do this with regard to theory, methodology, and application. The paper seeks to go beyond just recognizing the complementarities between the two approaches to demonstrate how researchers are actively engaging with each field to coproduce new knowledge, and to suggest promising areas of complementarity that are likely to further research and action in the field.

Key words

climate change; hazards; interdisciplinarity; resilience; social-ecological systems; vulnerability

Copyright © 2010 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes 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