Table 2. Resilience dimensions, justification, and illustrative examples.

Resilience Dimension Justification Example
Factors undermining resilience Awareness of factors contributing to social-ecological system (SES) vulnerability is needed to manage their capacity to produce ecosystem services. Poor water quality caused by runoff from adjacent catchments is a significant stressor of North Queensland coral reefs (Fabricius 2011). Management authorities established the Reef Rescue program to improve agricultural practices and monitor water quality (Eberhard Consulting 2011).
Key slow variables affecting resilience Slow variables are controlling variables that are buffered by stabilizing feedbacks and determine the ability of a system to stay in a particular system state (Chapin et al. 2009). The resilience of coral reefs to cyclones, warming sea surface temperatures, and anthropogenic stressors determines whether or not reefs shift into less productive algal-dominated systems (Hughes et al. 2007).
Key fast variables affecting resilience Fast variables are those operating at shorter temporal and smaller spatial scales that can cause changes in slow variables operating at longer time scales. Fishing effort increases through technological intensification in conjunction with recent climate change-induced oceanographic changes contribute to localized rock lobster (Jasus edwardsii) depletion in southeastern Australia (Linnane et al. 2010).
Key feedbacks Feedbacks between biotic and abiotic components of marine systems, and climate and socioeconomic systems can act synergistically to drive SES into less desirable states (Harley et al. 2006). A synergistic interaction between climate variation (warming waters), fishing pressure (through technological intensification), and long-spined sea urchin (Centrostephanus rodgersii) predation on kelp beds affects abalone and lobster stocks (Last et al. 2010) and can be a first step transformation to a new SES state. The recently arrived urchins can now be harvested, partially replacing declining abalone and rock lobster fisheries and also redirecting diving effort and labor. Coastal communities and their fishing fleets may consequently change in composition and size.
Likelihood of crossing thresholds Identifying the likelihood of a system crossing a threshold into a less desirable state will indicate its resilience and what should be done to strengthen adaptive capacity and increase sectors’ or systems’ ability to move toward institutions/practices that allow sectors to learn and innovate (Berkes 2007). Overgrazing of Tasmania’s productive east coast kelp forests by the range-extending long-spined sea urchin from warm temperate waters is contributing to a catastrophic regime shift (Ling et al. 2009). Restocking of rocky reefs with large lobsters (urchin predators) is intended to counter the effects of their earlier overfishing, which facilitated successful urchin invasion in the first place.
Response to uncertainty and surprise The ability of a society to live with surprise and uncertainty is a key factor in building resilience (Folke et al. 2003, Berkes 2007). Successive major cyclones and coral bleaching events along North Queensland coral reefs have put many coastal communities at risk of permanently losing the ability to attract tourists. In recognition of future change, tourism operators have implemented eco-efficiency measures such as risk management, energy reduction, and building climate change into business plans (Zeppel 2012).
Openness to resilience ideas Openness to resilience ideas acts as a proxy for SES preparedness to adapt to change. This is especially relevant given increasing evidence that future changes may be sudden and disruptive. The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (2010) is encouraging Australian fisheries to adapt to climate change through providing research support (Hamon et al. 2013, Pecl and Hobday 2011) and fostering initiatives, such as conducting vulnerability assessments.
Potential to reorganize SES resilience is largely dependent on ability to reorganize in the event of disturbance. Reorganization can be directed to a degree if critical capacities are maintained (Folke et al. 2003). ‘No take’ areas on coral reefs help to maintain biodiversity (ecological memory) which is crucial to regeneration after disturbance by tropical cyclones (Mumby et al. 2006).