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Ecological and Human Community Resilience in Response to Natural Disasters

Lance Gunderson, Department of Environmental Studies, Emory University


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Ecological resilience, adaptive cycles, and panarchy are all concepts that have been developed to explain abrupt and often surprising changes in complex socio-ecological systems that are prone to disturbances. These types of changes involve qualitative and quantitative alterations in systemsí structures and processes. This paper uses the concepts of ecological resilience, adaptive cycles, and panarchies to compare ecological and human community systems. At least five important findings emerge from this comparison. 1) Both systems demonstrate the multiple meanings of resilienceóboth in terms of recovery time from disturbances and the capacity to absorb them. 2) Both systems recognize the role of diversity in contributing to resilience. 3) The comparison highlights the role of different forms of capital and 4) the importance of cross-scale interactions. 5) The comparison reveals the need for experimentation and learning to build adaptive capacities. All of these ideas have broad implications for attempting to manage complex systems with human and ecological components in the face of recurring natural disasters.

Key words

ecological resilience; surprises; urban recovery

Copyright © 2010 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