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Assessing Resilience in Stressed Watersheds

Kristine T. Nemec, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Joana Chan, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Christina Hoffman, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Trisha L. Spanbauer, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Joseph A. Hamm, Public Policy Center, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Craig R. Allen, U.S. Geological Survey Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Trevor Hefley, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln; Department of Statistics, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Donald Pan, School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Prabhakar Shrestha, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska–Lincoln


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Although several frameworks for assessing the resilience of social-ecological systems (SESs) have been developed, some practitioners may not have sufficient time and information to conduct extensive resilience assessments. We have presented a simplified approach to resilience assessment that reviews the scientific, historical, and social literature to rate the resilience of an SES with respect to nine resilience properties: ecological variability, diversity, modularity, acknowledgement of slow variables, tight feedbacks, social capital, innovation, overlap in governance, and ecosystem services. We evaluated the effects of two large-scale projects, the construction of a major dam and the implementation of an ecosystem recovery program, on the resilience of the central Platte River SES (Nebraska, United States). We used this case study to identify the strengths and weaknesses of applying a simplified approach to resilience assessment. Although social resilience has increased steadily since the predam period for the central Platte River SES, ecological resilience was greatly reduced in the postdam period as compared to the predam and ecosystem recovery program time periods.

Key words

ecological resilience; Platte River; resilience assessment; social-ecological system; social resilience

Copyright © 2014 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