Science Inventory

How resilience is framed matters for governance of coastal social-ecological systems


Clement, S., J. Jozaei, M. Mitchell, C. Allen, AND A. Garmestani. How resilience is framed matters for governance of coastal social-ecological systems. Environmental Policy and Governance. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, 34(1):65-76, (2024).


This study advances understanding of how to improve environmental governance for linked social-ecological systems, which has critical ramifications for improving environmental outcomes. This paper moves the research on environmental governance forward by analyzing the issue, and providing guidance for moving forward. In the long-term, improving environmental governance has broad-scale implications for the environment in the United States, with particular interest for coral reef management (Regions 2, 4, 9), communities and the general public.


  Effective governance of social-ecological systems (SES) is an enduring challenge, especially in coastal environments where accelerating impacts of climate change are increasing pressure on already stressed systems. While resilience is often proposed as a suitable framing to re-orient governance and management, the literature includes many different, and sometimes conflicting, definitions and ideas that influence how the concept is applied, especially in coastal environments. This study combines discourse analysis of the coastal governance literature and key informant interviews in Tasmania, Australia, demonstrating inconsistencies and confusion in the way that resilience is framed in coastal governance research and practice. We find that resilience is most often framed as (1) a rate of recovery from disturbance or (2) the process of acting in response to, or anticipation of, a disturbance. A third framing considers resilience as an emergent property of SESs. This framing, social-ecological resilience, accounts for multiple configurations of SES, which necessitates adaptation and transformation strategies to address changes across temporal and spatial scales. Coastal managers recognised the value of this third framing for governing coastal SESs, yet the confusion and inconsistency in the literature was also evident in how they understood and applied resilience in practice. Expanding the use of social-ecological resilience is essential for more effective coastal governance, given the dynamics of coastal SESs and the intensity of social, economic, and environmental drivers of change these systems face. However, this requires addressing the unclear, confused, and superficial use of resilience-oriented concepts in research and policy discourse.

Record Details:

Product Published Date:02/01/2024
Record Last Revised:02/07/2024
OMB Category:Other
Record ID: 360381