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Conceptualising resilience in managing environment, agriculture and water Graham Marshall Institute for Rural Futures, University of New England

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Presentation on theme: "Conceptualising resilience in managing environment, agriculture and water Graham Marshall Institute for Rural Futures, University of New England"— Presentation transcript:

1 Conceptualising resilience in managing environment, agriculture and water Graham Marshall Institute for Rural Futures, University of New England

2 Strategic Assessment of the Vulnerability of Australia’s Biodiversity to Climate Change (2009): “Formation of novel ecosystems, abrupt changes in ecosystem structure and functioning, and surprising, counterintuitive outcomes will become more common. … [T]hese climate-induced complications challenge the policy, management and governance communities to develop and implement innovative, adaptive and resilient (or transformative) regimes for the conservation of Australia’s biodiversity under rapid change”.

3 Challenges in managing environment, agriculture and water Natural resource management (NRM) has entered a ‘mature’ or ‘conservation’ phase where ecological and social subsystems are run close to their thresholds Each subsystem is vulnerable not only to direct shocks, but also to ‘surprises’ from cascading effects of shocks to other subsystems Recognition of need for integrated management of inter- linked subsystems as a single ‘social-ecological system’ (SES) Interdependence between environmental, agricultural and water problems was previously recognised, but ‘resilience thinking’ highlights the deep uncertainties in managing SESs

4 Resilience and its management Resilience = capacity of a system to cope with shocks without ‘flipping’ across a threshold into a new regime Does not imply the existing regime is best ‘Resilience management’ seeks to prevent flips to undesirable regimes, or catalyse flips to preferred regimes –recognises the high costs of reversing flips Recognises that each SES is a complex adaptive system with emergent behaviour Understanding behaviour of a ‘focal SES’ requires collaboration of stakeholders across multiple levels

5 Choosing interventions Resilience assessment will identify many more ‘resilience deficits’ than can be remedied with current NRM funding We need to decide priorities and trade-offs Which SESs to invest in? Focus on ‘specified’ or ‘general’ resilience? Which aspects of ‘specified resilience’? Which aspects of ‘general resilience’? How willing are we to sacrifice short-term performance in pursuing resilience? Do we want to adapt or transform the SES?

6 Frameworks for evaluating interventions must: –be consistent with resilience thinking –be simple enough to be applied at each level, given training and ‘help-desk’ support –require coherent definition of the interventions to be evaluated, including how implementation would occur What governance arrangements will enable a strong ‘resilience dividend’ from interventions, by: –enabling a strategic approach to interventions –capturing and sharing the lessons learnt –fostering innovation, and a diversity of interventions to learn from –facilitating adaptive management?

7 Transcending ‘business as usual’ Shifting to resilience management involves cultural transformation –need to prepare for, and capitalise on, windows of opportunity Meanwhile, ‘resilience thinking’ risks becoming subverted like ‘sustainability’ and ‘adaptive management’ Avoid silo-by-silo assessments of resilience Resist the lure of panaceas Foster authentic collaboration between stakeholders at multiple levels

8 Conceptualising resilience in managing environment, agriculture and water Graham Marshall Institute for Rural Futures, University of New England


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