Resilience Thinking: Integrating Resilience, Adaptability and Transformability

C. Folke, S.R. Carpenter, B. Walker, M. Scheffer, T. Chapin, J. Rockstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2327 Citations (Scopus)


Resilience thinking addresses the dynamics and development of complex social-ecological systems (SES). Three aspects are central: resilience, adaptability and transformability. These aspects interrelate across multiple scales. Resilience in this context is the capacity of a SES to continually change and adapt yet remain within critical thresholds. Adaptability is part of resilience. It represents the capacity to adjust responses to changing external drivers and internal processes and thereby allow for development along the current trajectory (stability domain). Transformability is the capacity to cross thresholds into new development trajectories. Transformational change at smaller scales enables resilience at larger scales. The capacity to transform at smaller scales draws on resilience from multiple scales, making use of crises as windows of opportunity for novelty and innovation, and recombining sources of experience and knowledge to navigate social-ecological transitions. Society must seriously consider ways to foster resilience of smaller more manageable SESs that contribute to Earth System resilience and to explore options for deliberate transformation of SESs that threaten Earth System resilience.
Original languageEnglish
Article number43
Number of pages3
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • social-ecological systems
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