Integrating social and ecological resilience

Consideration of both social and ecological elements of resilience within a single, complex social-ecological system to improve natural resource management and social well-being.

Social and ecological systems are intrinsically linked, and the future of one depends on the other. Therefore, integration of ecological, social and economic aspects of natural resource management will: (i) enhance capacity in stakeholders to undertake informed decision-making, (ii) explicitly outline trade-offs associated with specific strategies, and (iii) deliver more appropriate and successful management outcomes. Integration of social and ecological resilience involves using vulnerability assessment frameworks, where linking social and ecological vulnerability to identify adaptation options is key to adaptation measures being effective.

Source: Hobday et al. 2012

Online resources are challenging find for this topic since much of the development to date has been on the concept or theory of integrating social and ecological resilience.  Little practical application has occurred thus far so no guides or protocols are available. The resources provided are all generic, with information on selecting social indicators and building capacity in preparing for the integration of social and ecological factors in management decision-making. The scientific articles can be a bit technical but provide good background and theory on the rationale behind the development of this concept.


  • IUCN has published a “Framework for Social Adaptation to Climate Change” (Marshall et al. 2009): This document addresses a number of different themes including climate change vulnerability, resilience to climate change, assessing vulnerability and building social resilience. This is a key resource for Caribbean reef managers as it posits, and answers “how can reef managers enhance social resilience?”
  • The book “Linking Social and Ecological Systems” (Berkes and Folke 1998) available here:, analyses social and ecological linkages in selected ecosystems using an international and interdisciplinary case study approach. The chapters provide detailed information on a variety of management practices for dealing with environmental change. The book includes sections on managing fisheries so is likely to be useful to Caribbean reef managers. The book is available for purchase (US$68) but the table of contents can be viewed online.
  • A PhD thesis from the University of Stockholm entitled “Building capacity for resilience in social-ecological systems” (Olsson 2003) analyzes social-ecological dynamics with the goal of contributing to the understanding of adaptive capacity in social-ecological systems: Case studies are given from Sweden and Canada and adaptive co-management of ecosystems is addressed. The example of crayfish management in Western Sweden may be of some interest to Caribbean reef managers.
  • The Resilience Alliance is a research organization comprised of scientists and managers from many disciplines who collaborate to explore the dynamics of social-ecological systems. One of their key concepts is adaptive co-management: This is a single webpage with limited information describing what is meant by ‘adaptive co-management’ but there is a list of further reading likely to be of interest.

Key publications

Integrating resilience thinking and optimization for conservation (2009) Fischer J, Peterson GD, Gordon LJ, Dovers S, Fazey I, Felton A, Elmqvist T, Folke C, Gardner T and Manning AD. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 24: 549-554. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2009.03.020.

Resilience: The emergence of a perspective for social–ecological systems analyses (2006) Folke C. Global Environmental Change, 16: 253–267.

Integrating social science into the Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) Network: Social dimensions of ecological change and ecological dimensions of social change (2004) Redman CL, Grove JM and Kuby LH. Ecosystems, Vol. 7, No. 2: 161-171.

Social and ecological resilience: are they related? (2000) Adger WN. Progress in Human Geography, 24(3): 347–364.