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Drivers, "Slow" Variables, "Fast" Variables, Shocks, and Resilience

Brian H Walker, CSIRO Ecosystem Science, Australia
Stephen R Carpenter, Center for Limnology, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Johan Rockstrom, Stockholm Resilience Centre, University of Stockholm
Anne-Sophie Crépin, Beijer Institute, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Garry D Peterson, Stockholm Resilience Centre, University of Stockholm


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Different uses of the terms "drivers," "variables," and "shocks" cause confusion in the literature and in discussions on the dynamics of ecosystems and social–ecological systems. Three main sources of confusion are unclear definition of the system, unclear definition of the role of people, and confusion between variables and drivers. As a contribution to resolving some of the confusion, we offer one interpretation of how the terms might be used.

Key words

drivers; fast variables; resilience; shocks; slow variables; social–ecological systems

Copyright © 2012 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes 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