In 1973, C. S. Holling introduced the word resilience into the ecological literature as a way of helping to understand the non-linear dynamics observed in ecosystems. Ecological resilience was defined as the amount of disturbance that an ecosystem could withstand without changing self-organized processes and structures (defined as alternative stable states). Other authors consider resilience as a return time to a stable state following a perturbation. A new term, adaptive capacity, is introduced to describe the processes that modify ecological resilience. Two definitions recognize the presence of multiple stable states (or stability domains), and hence resilience is the property that mediates transition among these states. Transitions among stable states have been described for many ecosystems, including semi-arid rangelands, lakes, coral reefs, and forests. In these systems, ecological resilience is maintained by keystone structuring processes across a number of scales, sources of renewal and reformation, and functional biodiversity. In practice, maintaining a capacity for renewal in a dynamic environment provides an ecological buffer that protects the system from the failure of management actions that are taken based upon incomplete understanding, and it allows managers to affordably learn and change.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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