This is one of four books deriving from the Resilience Project, an international project involving both social and natural scientists. Its objective is to “develop integrative theory for sustainable systems and to propose integrative practice that can be tested within both developed and developing regions” (p. xvi). The majority of the chapters in this book, which also follows on from an earlier edited volume with a similar title ( Berkes and Folke, 1998 ) are case studies which explore the application of this integrative theory, panarchy, which is explored in more detail in Gunderson and Holling (2002) . Navigating Social–Ecological Systems begins with a foreword by C.S. (“Buzz”) Holling, the prime originator of the theory, which is followed by an excellent introduction by the editors which underscores many of the key principles, such as the need to assume change and explain stability, rather than vice versa; the consequent inadequacy of linear models; and the need to develop and implement adaptive, flexible management systems. The next three chapters provide three perspectives on resilience. In “Adaptive Dancing”, Gunderson explores the interactions between social resilience and ecological crises, emphasizing the need to deal with uncertainty and develop novelty, a challenge to most agencies because of their high inertia (p. 42). Davidson-Hunt and Berkes provide a wide-ranging overview of various models of relationships between nature and society, from diverse disciplines, and note the value of resilience for focusing on the temporal dimension of the human-in-ecosystem perspective. Low and others address issues relating to the importance of redundancy in a wide range of systems, from genetic to engineering to environmental. The following nine chapters are a rich selection of case studies that primarily focus on the “release” and “reorganization” phases of panarchy, i.e., “disturbance, crisis, and response to change, and their dynamics” (p. 21). These case studies refer to a wide range of social–ecological systems, some in parts of one country (Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, Sweden, Tanzania, USA) and others in a number of countries. Concluding the book is the editors’ valuable synthesis, which is largely built around four critical factors for building resilience: “learning to live with change and uncertainty; nurturing diversity for reorganization and renewal; combining different types of knowledge for learning; and creating opportunity for self-organization toward social–ecological sustainability” (pp. 354–5). While resilience and panarchy may not be concepts that are yet widely enough known, this book is an important contribution to the debate on how to manage ecosystems comprised of ecological and social sub-systems which have complex structures and dynamics which interact in ways that are often surprising. Given the price of the book, I would primarily recommend it for library purchase – but it should be available to scientists in a wide range of disciplines, and the lessons it contains are also of great relevance to policy-makers in an increasingly uncertain world.</P>
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Oct 1, 2004
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