Resilience-Based Management

The high cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii. Photo © Ethan Welty

Resilience-based management (RBM) is defined as using knowledge of current and future drivers influencing ecosystem function (e.g., coral disease outbreaks, changes in land-use, trade, or fishing practices) to prioritize, implement, and adapt management actions that sustain ecosystems and human well-being. ref

Management objectives for RBM will be different based on local context (e.g., based on different enabling conditions that support/challenge reef management; different threats and opportunities to managing threats). RBM can help to identify and prioritize management actions that enhance system resilience (e.g., by protecting processes and species that support a system’s capacity to withstand and recover from disturbance). Examples of management actions that reinforce RBM include controlling threats such as overfishing, pollution, and coastal development; supporting ecosystem processes of recruitment and recovery (e.g., managing herbivores, improving water quality); and developing alternative livelihoods to reduce pressure on reef resources (i.e., by reducing income dependence on fisheries). Additionally, strategies that support adaptive capacity and adaptation also support RBM (e.g., building capacity of people to learn, share knowledge, innovate, and adjust responses and institutions to changing external drivers and internal processes). ref Effective RBM will consider a range of management strategies that are most likely to deliver against multiple, and potentially conflicting, objectives under different climate scenarios.

RBM builds on the foundation of ecosystem-based management (EBM). Both RBM and EBM are integrated management approaches that consider resilience, cumulative impacts, and the entire socio-ecological system. Both are characterized by an emphasis on the protection of ecosystem structure, functioning, and key processes. A key difference between EBM and RBM is that RBM acknowledges that humans are capable of driving change, adaptation, and transformation. ref When management actions and adaptation are not enough to maintain resilience, building the capacity for transformation will be necessary. For guidance preparing for and navigating transformation, see Folke 2016. ref Transformations can be either positive (e.g., new livelihood that reduces pressure on coral reefs) or negative (e.g., from coral to algal-dominated reef). Preparing for transformation is likely to become an increasingly important aspect of managing for resilience. ref