A regional resilience assessment of the Goulburn-Broken Catchment

Earlier this month one of the first integrated assessments of regional resilience based on the workbooks developed by the Resilience Alliance was published in Ecology and Society.

Resilience, Adaptability and Transformability in the Goulburn-Broken Catchment, Australia, by Brian Walker, Nick Abel, John Anderies and Paul Ryan uses an approach that follows and also builds upon the workbook guide.

One important aspect of the approach used by Walker and colleagues was to deal with both specified and general resilience. After identifying ten thresholds in the Goulburn-Broken catchment the authors go on to consider the overall resilience of the social-ecological system and offer the following explanation and word of caution about responding solely to specific and known potential system shocks:

“Because of uncertainty about the specified thresholds, regions must be prepared for a wide range of disturbances. By building targeted resilience, regions may inadvertently be reducing other kinds of resilience. It is well known that in feedback systems (of which social–ecological systems are an example) increasing robustness to disturbances at a particular frequency range may reduce robustness to disturbances at another range. It was shown long ago that this is necessarily the case for linear, time-invariant systems (Bode 1945). This idea has been extended to more complex systems recently. For example, Carlson and Doyle (2000) illustrate that biophysical systems that become robust to frequent disturbances become necessarily less resilient to those that are very infrequent. Anderies et al. (2007) have applied these ideas to simple, nonlinear, renewable-resource management problems and illustrated fundamental robustness trade-offs to different types of disturbances. It is, therefore, sensible to consider, in addition to resilience to specified thresholds, whether general resilience is declining.”

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