Table 1. Similarities and differences between ecosystems and human communities with respect resilience and adaptive capacity in the face of natural disasters.

Concept Example from Ecological systems Example from Human systems
Engineering definition of resilience (time to recovery) Regrowth of forest structure after pest outbreak (Holling 1996) Rebuilding homes and infrastructure in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina (Kates et al. 2006)
Ecological definition of resilience (amount of disturbance required to shift regimes) Shift from coral reef to algae reef following hurricane (Hughes 1994) Shift in cultural reputation of San Francisco after 1903 Earthquake (Vale and Campanella, 2005)
Role of Diversity More plant species increase biomass recovery following drought. (Tilman et al. 1996)

Cross scale functional redundancy provides ecological resilience (Allent et al. 1998, Walker et al. 1999)

Increase in economic and institutional diversity following hurricanes increases ability to recover from future hurricanes (Adger et al. 2005)

Social networks, linkages can provide resilience through increased connections, such as sharing of food, water following natural disasters (Adger et al. 2005).

Role of Capital Undamaged natural capital (rootstocks, biota) provides rapid recovery (Gunderson Holling 2002).

Loss of natural capital, such as decrease in populations of sea otters, leads to regime shifts (Estes and Duggans 1995).

Loss of natural capital (biomass such as mangroves along shorelines) decreases capacity to buffer hurricane or tsunami effects (Adger et al. 2005).

Remnant or undamaged infrastructure (sewerage, electricity) increases recovery (Berke and Campanella 2006). Neighborhood gardens improve recovery (Tidball and Krasny 2007)

Decreased external flow of fiscal and human resources following fires used to remove slum housing (Wallace and Wallace 2008)

Anticipation and Learning No ability to anticipate, ecological systems can only adapt through selective pressures. Human communities can anticipate disasters through foresight and experience scale inputs.

More novelty, creativity in creating new configurations.