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Emergence of human resilience in coastal ecosystems under environmental change

Nilufar Matin, Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York
Richard Taylor, Stockholm Environment Institute, Oxford Centre


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Resilience has been studied in a number of disciplines, predominantly in psychosocial and ecological sciences. Although there are striking similarities in their approaches, the psychosocial tradition has centered on the family and its immediate surroundings, whereas the social-ecological approach has focused on macrosystems that stop at the family level. Recently, the need for bridging these gaps has been echoed by researchers from both these traditions, particularly for promoting resilience of individuals and their wider environment in the context of natural disasters and climate change. However, a new synthesis of social-ecological and behavioral theories integrating multiple dynamic systems that interact across levels is strikingly rare. We addressed some of these issues in the context of complex coastal ecosystems in the Sundarbans region in southwest Bangladesh soon after the Cyclone Aila, which hit the coast in May 2009. The devastation that followed tested the endurance and resilience of people and nature alike. We used an integrated method that combined Antonovsky’s sense of coherence scale with narrative inquiry for assessing human resilience. The quantitative analysis was able to address gender, educational, and livelihood dimensions of individual resilience. Life history narratives were found particularly useful in bringing out the underlying contexts and processes that embody individual social-ecological interactions that influence the construct of human resilience. These exercises show that the emergence of human resilience must be understood as a holistic and dynamic process because the variables that contribute to its emergence interact in complex ways.

Key words

complexity; human resilience; narrative inquiry; psychosocial; sense of coherence; social-ecological

Copyright © 2015 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