Toward Principles for Enhancing the Resilience of Ecosystem Services

R. Biggs, M. Schlüter, D. Biggs, E.L. Bohensky, S. BurnSilver, G. Cundill, V. Dakos, T.M. Daw, L.S. Evans, K. Kotschy, A.M. Leitch, C. Meek, A. Quinlan, C. Raudsepp-Hearne, M.D. Robards, M.L. Schoon, L. Schultz, P.C. West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

495 Citations (Scopus)


Enhancing the resilience of ecosystem services (ES) that underpin human well-being is critical for meeting current and future societal needs, and requires specific governance and management policies. Using the literature, we identify seven generic policy-relevant principles for enhancing the resilience of desired ES in the face of disturbance and ongoing change in social-ecological systems (SES). These principles are (P1) maintain diversity and redundancy, (P2) manage connectivity, (P3) manage slow variables and feedbacks, (P4) foster an understanding of SES as complex adaptive systems (CAS), (P5) encourage learning and experimentation, (P6) broaden participation, and (P7) promote polycentric governance systems. We briefly define each principle, review how and when it enhances the resilience of ES, and conclude with major research gaps. In practice, the principles often co-occur and are highly interdependent. Key future needs are to better understand these interdependencies and to operationalize and apply the principles in different policy and management contexts
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-448
JournalAnnual Review of Environment and Resources
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • social-ecological-systems
  • complex adaptive systems
  • natural-resource management
  • great-barrier-reef
  • response diversity
  • protected areas
  • climate-change
  • river-basin
  • coral-reefs
  • networks

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