Carpenter S.R, Westley F., Turner M.G. 2004. Surrogates for resilience of social-ecological systems.. Ecosystems..


Preview to special feature introducing the development of surrogates of resilience in social-ecological systems

Geographic Focus: 


Key Findings: 

Resilience creates a conceptual foundation for sustainability in social-ecological systems (SES’s). Moving from theory to practice, however, requires methods of assessment or resilience measures that are sensitive to changes in SES’s. One of the difficulties of measuring resilience is that it requires a measurement of thresholds between different domains of stability, and detecting these thresholds usually means crossing them. Resilience measures differ from indicators, as they are commonly used, and therefore the use of the term “surrogate.” This acknowledges that direct measurement of resilience may not be possible, requiring inferred information. Guidelines or criteria for selecting potential surrogates of resilience are presented. A range of mechanisms for developing resilience surrogates are also offered including: stakeholder assessment, model exploration, historical profiling, and case study comparison.


The development of surrogates of resilience in SES’s is an emerging area of research. It is also an important area, needed to bridge and ground theoretically abstract concepts with practical issues confronting societies. Surrogates for resilience provide a potentially powerful tool for adaptive learning systems, particularly where the use of those surrogates remains dynamic and continuously reflective in their implementation.