Ecological resilience and Holling



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Ecological resilience

Ecological resilience – Wikipedia

Ecological resilience

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  (Redirected from Resilience (ecology))Jump to navigationJump to searchFor other uses, see Resilience (disambiguation).Lake and Mulga ecosystems with alternative stable states[1]

In ecologyresilience is the capacity of an ecosystem to respond to a perturbation or disturbance by resisting damage and recovering quickly. Such perturbations and disturbances can include stochastic events such as firesfloodingwindstorms, insect population explosions, and human activities such as deforestation, fracking of the ground for oil extraction, pesticide sprayed in soil, and the introduction of exotic plant or animal species. Disturbances of sufficient magnitude or duration can profoundly affect an ecosystem and may force an ecosystem to reach a threshold beyond which a different regime of processes and structures predominates.[2]When such thresholds are associated with a critical or bifurcation point, these regime shifts may also be referred to as critical transitions.[3]

Human activities that adversely affect ecological resilience such as reduction of biodiversityexploitation of natural resourcespollutionland use, and anthropogenic climate change are increasingly causing regime shifts in ecosystems, often to less desirable and degraded conditions.[2][4] Interdisciplinary discourse on resilience now includes consideration of the interactions of humans and ecosystems via socio-ecological systems, and the need for shift from the maximum sustainable yieldparadigm to environmental resource management which aims to build ecological resilience through “resilience analysis, adaptive resource management, and adaptive governance”.[5]



The concept of resilience in ecological systems was first introduced by the Canadian ecologist C.S. Holling [6] in order to describe the persistence of natural systems in the face of changes in ecosystem variables due to natural or anthropogenic causes. Resilience has been defined in two ways in ecological literature:

  1. as the time required for an ecosystem to return to an equilibrium or steady-state following a perturbation (which is also defined as stability by some authors). This definition of resilience is used in other fields such as physics and engineering, and hence has been termed ‘engineering resilience’ by Holling.[6][7]
  2. as “the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks”.[5]

The second definition has been termed ‘ecological resilience’, and it presumes the existence of multiple stable states or regimes.[7]

Some shallow temperate lakes can exist within either clear water regime, which provides many ecosystem services, or a turbid water regime, which provides reduced ecosystem services and can produce toxic algae blooms. The regime or state is dependent upon lake phosphorus cycles, and either regime can be resilient dependent upon the lake’s ecology and management.[1][2]

Mulga woodlands of Australia can exist in a grass-rich regime that supports sheep herding, or a shrub-dominated regime of no value for sheep grazing. Regime shifts are driven by the interaction of fireherbivory, and variable rainfall. Either state can be resilient dependent upon management.[1][2]


Ecologists Brian WalkerC S Holling and others describe four critical aspects of resilience: latituderesistanceprecariousness, and panarchy.

The first three can apply both to a whole system or the sub-systems that make it up.

  1. Latitude: the maximum amount a system can be changed before losing its ability to recover (before crossing a threshold which, if breached, makes recovery difficult or impossible).
  2. Resistance: the ease or difficulty of changing the system; how “resistant” it is to being changed.
  3. Precariousness: how close the current state of the system is to a limit or “threshold.”.[5]
  4. Panarchy: the degree to which a certain hierarchical level of an ecosystem is influenced by other levels. For example, organisms living in communities that are in isolation from one another may be organized differently from the same type of organism living in a large continuous population, thus the community-level structure is influenced by population-level interactions.

Closely linked to resilience is adaptive capacity, which is the property of an ecosystem that describes change in stability landscapes and resilience.[7] Adaptive capacity in socio-ecological systems refers to the ability of humans to deal with change in their environment by observation, learning and altering their interactions.[2]

Continues in source: Ecological resilience – Wikipedia