Glossary

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Adaptive capacity/Adaptability – the capacity to adapt and to shape change. Adaptability is the capacity of actors in a system to influence resilience. In a social-ecological system, this amounts to the capacity of humans to manage resilience. (Walker, Holling, Carpenter, and Kinzig. 2004).

Adaptive governance – institutional and political frameworks designed to adapt to changing relationships between society and ecosystems in ways that sustain ecosystem services; expands the focus from adaptive management of ecosystems to address the broader social contexts that enable ecosystem-based management (Carpenter and Folke 2006).

Alternate state - Alternate states are identified by a shift in dominant organisms or system structure and a change in the processes that reinforce a particular state.

Cross-scale - Influences between the dynamics of systems at one scale and the dyanamics of those that are embedded in it or enfold it.

Desirable and undesirable regimes – A coarse indication of collective human attitudes and expectations towards particular system configurations. An awkward term that often raises queries – but highlights a tension about the ways in which society (in general, or a particular segment) regards particular system regime in contrast to an alternative regime.

Disturbance - In ecological terms, disturbance is a relatively discrete event in time, coming from the outside, that disrupts ecosystems, communities, or populations, changes substrates and resource availability, and creates opportunities for new individuals or colonies to become established.

Eutrophication – is the enhanced growth of vegetation or phytoplankton that causes algal blooms in aquatic systems, resulting from high concentrations of compounds such as nitrogen and phosphorus.

Feedback – a signal within a system that loops back to control the system. In natural systems feedback can help to maintain stability in a system (negative feedback) or it can speed up processes and change within the system (positive feedback).

Institutions – Rules and norms that guide how people within societies live, work, and interact. Formal institutions are codified rules such as the constitution, organized markets, or property rights. Informal institutions are rules governed by social or behavioral norms of a family, community or society.

Learning and innovation - Learning involves the comparison of mental models with data and information from the world. At least two types of learning have been described: incremental and transformational. Incremental learning can occur when information and data are used to evaluate ongoing plans, models and policies. Ongoing monitoring programs can be used to evaluate whether proposed management actions are achieving desired goals. In this case, the underlying mental model or scheme is fixed. Transformational learning occurs when underlying models, schema or paradigms change. This type of learning occurs after an environmental crisis, where policy failure is undeniable. It requires innovation in the form of development of new ideas, models and policies. Transformational learning is also described as evolutionary learning where not just new models or schema are developed, but also new paradigmatic structures that lead to new sets of policies or management actions.

Panarchy - a model of linked, hierarchically arranged adaptive cycles that represents the cross-scale dynamic interactions among the levels of a system and considers the interplay between change and persistence (Holling et al 2002).

Regime and regime shift -A regime is an identifiable configuration of a system, also often called a system state. A regime has characteristic structures, functions, feedbacks and therefore, identity. A regime shift is the rapid reorganization of a system from one relatively unchanging state (or regime) to another.

Resilience – the ability of a system to absorb shocks, to avoid crossing a threshold into an alternate and possibly irreversible new state, and to regenerate after disturbance.

Scale - any measurable dimension (such as space or time). Structures can be measured in terms of spatial resolution (minimum) and extent (maximum), e.g. a farm covers 100 hectares. Processes can be resolved in similar temporal terms, e.g. a cyclone persists for 24 days. For the purposes of a resilience assessment, a focal scale of the social-ecological system of interest is usually determined from among: landscape/local scale, sub-continental/sub-regional, continental/regional, and global scale, over a specified period of time.

Scenario – A scenario is a story that describes a possible future, by identifying significant events, actors and mechanisms. A set of scenarios that bracket the range of possible futures is a useful tool for examining the kinds of processes and dynamics that could lead to a SES developing along particular trajectories.

Social-ecological system (SES) – an integrated system of ecosystems and human society with reciprocal feedback and interdependence. The concept emphasizes the ‘humans-in-nature’ perspective.

Social Network Analysis (SNA) - has emerged as a key technique in modern sociology to map social relations among individuals or organizations. Rather than treating individuals (persons, organizations, states) as discrete units of analysis, SNA focuses on how the structure of ties affects individuals and their relationships.

Stable state – A stable state refers to a system with stability. Stability being the ability of a system to return to an equilibrium state after a temporary disturbance. The more rapidly it returns, and with the least fluctuation, the more stable it is (Holling 1973).

State variable – a component in the system for which the amount of that component can be tracked or measured. State variables include items such as land, biomass, livestock, farmers, roads, etc.

Threshold – A breakpoint between two regimes of a system (Walker, B. and J. A. Meyers. 2004).

Tipping point – the moment of dramatic, rapid change, such as with the rapid rise or fall of an epidemic.

Transformability – The capacity to create a fundamentally new system when ecological, economic, or social (including politicaly) conditions make the existing system untenable.

Transformation – a change that results in a fundamentally new system.

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