Scientists argue we have entered the Anthropocene, a geological epoch where there are now so many of us, using so many resources that we are disrupting the whole planet's nutrient and energy flows leaving almost all the planet's ecosystems with marks of our presence.
The systems that are shaped by the interactions between people and ecosystems are the essence of what we call a social-ecological system.
Connectivity can be both a good and a bad thing. Well-connected systems can recover from disturbances more quickly, but overly connected systems may lead to rapid spread of disturbances. Perhaps the most positive effect of landscape connectivity is that it can contribute to the maintenance of biodiversity.
The Yellowstone-to-Yukon project in North America is an example of conservation planning that reconnects large habitat patches by re-establishing wildlife corridors. Through a variety of collaborative initiatives with diverse stakeholder groups, Y2Y’s primary objective is to connect eight priority areas that function as either core wildlife habitat or key corridors in an area spanning 1.3 million square kilometres.
Principle three: Manage slow variables and feedbacks
Imagine an ecosystem such as a freshwater lake with readily accessible drinking water. The quality of this water is linked to slowly changing variables such as the phosphorus concentration in the sediment, which in turn is linked to fertiliser runoff into the lake.
A complex adaptive systems (CAS) approach means accepting that within a social-ecological system, several connections are occurring at the same time on different levels. It also means accepting unpredictability and uncertainty, and acknowledging a multitude of perspectives.
Social-ecological systems are always in development so there is a constant need to revise existing knowledge and stimulate learning. More collaborative processes can also help.
There are a range of advantages to a broad and well-functioning participation. An informed and well-functioning group have the potential to build trust and a shared understanding - both fundamental ingredients for collective action.
Polycentricity, a governance system in which multiple governing bodies interact to make and enforce rules within a specific policy arena or location, is considered to be one of the best ways to achieve collective action in the face of disturbance and change. It represents flexible solutions for self-organisations where more formal procedures seem to fail.
So here we are. All the principles presented here require a nuanced understanding of how, where and when to apply them, and how the different principles interact and depend on one another. It is therefore essential to consider a complex understanding of what you want to build resilience of, and to what types of disturbances (e.g. fires, floods, urbanization).