Ask a person on the street ‘what does it mean to be resilient’? They might answer something to the effect of ‘the ability to bounce back following adversity’.
Ask a second year ecology student ‘what does it mean for an ecosystem to be resilient’. They might recall their first year lecture where they learned about resilience, the ability of an ecosystem to recover following disturbance. They will probably also mention the closely related concept of ‘resistance’, the ability to persist during the disturbance.
Now, ask an academic or postdoc in ecology ‘what does it mean for an ecosystem to be resilient’ and they will often look perplexed. That first year understanding, plain and simple, creeps into their might, along with the dictionary definition of the term. BUT, then a bunch of other terms…Panarchy? Hysteresis? Um, adaptive cycle…multiple stable states?
It was this reaction, by fellow academics, students and land managers, that led to my most recent paper: Vive la resistance: reviving resistance for 21st Century conservation, published online in Trends in Ecology and Evolution.
The message: let’s get back to basics. The textbook definitions, which we call the ‘resistance-resilience framework’, are actually pretty decent. It’s simple and intuitive. It’s a conceptual model of course, and so it will not always be applicable or relevant. However, it has a bunch of neat attributes that other concepts of resilience lack.
So, long live resistance!