5.1 Interventions

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Managing resilience involves knowing when, where, and how to intervene.

It involves managing interventions holistically, by considering how multiple interventions might interact with each other and carefully planning the sequencing of actions. Single interventions or ‘quick fixes’ usually offer only partial solutions and are rarely successful over the long-term.

Key Messages

• Management interventions for resilience are aimed at two strategies: 1) enhancing system resilience in order to maintain a desirable regime and 2) transforming the system into a new or very different state.

• The key to transformation is the development of new approaches, new mental models, or the reframing of issues.

• Crises and disturbances can provide an opportunity for transformation. Droughts or floods, for example, can reveal that existing policies or management actions are no longer working and should be changed.

• Interventions can be targeted at different components of the social-ecological system and might include: 1. changing or creating new policies and institutions – modifying regulations, property rights, rules, norms, standards; 2. fiscal capital and monetary mechanisms, such as investments subsidies, taxes, markets, other economic instruments; and 3. manipulating ecological goods and services, for example by creating or removing dams along rivers, controlling fish harvests, or restoring wetlands.

Resilence Assessment

In the following section you will draw on the information gathered in the assessment sections of previous chapters to explore a set of system interventions with the ultimate aim being to build resilience in a sustainable natural resource system so that it can continue to provide ecosystem services over the long term.

Intervention Considerations

Management goals Do existing management goals suggest maintaining the current ecological state or changing to a new one? Do existing management goals focus on increasing the resilience of the current state? If so how? List any planned interventions or suggested interventions from the resilience assessment in previous chapters (review your list of action items).

Thresholds Consult the resilience assessment in section 2.2 and review the list of thresholds of potential concern and identify the critical thresholds that constitute priority attentions for intervention. Next review the list of factors/slow variables affecting these thresholds. These factors are what policy and management need to focus on.

Refer to the list of interventions developed above and add/remove suggested interventions as necessary.

Scale The institutions or other entities involved in making interventions operate at different scales and it is helpful to consider possible interventions at multiple scales. Considering the list of priority interventions, iterate between scales to explore how the intervention might affect or be affected by processes or interventions at other scales. Use the information summarized in Table 1.2.1 (Multiple scale characteristics linked to the focal system) to help you explore the possible cross-scale interactive effects of proposed interventions.

Adaptive cycle & panarchy The kinds of interventions that are most appropriate (and inappropriate) are influenced by the phase of the adaptive cycle. Referring back to section 3.1, if the focal system is in a fore loop (growth or conservation phase of the adaptive cycle), consider two common fore-loop trends that may require intervention: 1) Becoming too good at it, i.e. not recognizing that increases in efficiency of production are reducing response diversity. Maximizing production through increased efficiency often leads to unwanted surprises – e.g., collapsed fish stocks, epidemics; 2) Becoming increasingly reluctant to change from what has developed into a successful production system.

If the focal system is in a late-conservation phase, there may be strong resistance to change. One option is to induce small disturbances, to force the release of resources and re-organization, before it happens through a potentially large, external disturbance. The aim in fore loop intervention is to either bring about a move back along the axis from conservation to growth phases, or to induce a small-scale back loop that quickly re-sets the system into a rejuvenated growth phase without significant loss of capital.

Another way to think about this is to identify sub-systems of the focal scale (identified in section 1.2), and generate back loops or ‘release and reorganization’ in some of these sub-systems. A strong proposition in resilience theory is that generating back loops at small scales prevents systems at higher scales from approaching crisis and collapse.

If the focal system is in a back loop (release and reorganization phase of the adaptive cycle i.e. existing arrangements are unraveling, people and capital leaving, ecosystems ‘collapsing’), the main aim is to retain as much capital as possible while fostering and speeding up the re-organization phase. Bring to an end the release phase as quickly as possible, while retaining ‘memory’ and resources. The trade-off from an intervention perspective, is to allow novelty to flourish as much as possible during the back loop while also constraining it so that the back loop doesn’t last too long.

A common cross-scale effect that reduces resilience and that may require intervention is the provision of subsidies from higher scales to enable K-phase behavior at the focal scale to persist (help not to change, rather than help to change). Consider the interactions among institutions at different scales (identified above) and examine them in terms of needed changes that may call for intervention. In terms of panarchy behavior, what cross-scale interventions are called for?

Considering the set of priority interventions identified above, are there any sequencing issues involved in implementing the interventions? Obvious ones would be ensuring appropriate changes in regulations are in place before recommending management changes, but there may be less apparent interactions amongst the interventions. Sequencing interventions within ecological, economic and social domains, and between them, needs to be considered before any are implemented. Place the interventions into sequential order and examine the consequences, using the insights gained from the models you have developed and your understanding of panarchy effects.

5.1 Interventions

5.2 Adaptive Assessment and Management

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