Social-Ecological Evolutionary Resilience: A Proposal to Enhance “Sustainability Transformation” about Theoretical Foundation


In this conceptual paper, we try to take a step to explore theoretical foundation of sustainability transformation in dimension of resilience thinking. Firstly, this paper will reexamine the ontology of ecosystem resilience so as to avoid the conflated view between ecosystem resilience and engineering resilience; secondly, it will propose social-ecological evolutionary resilience as theoretical and conceptual foundation for sustainability transformation.

Share and Cite:

Wang, Q. and Yamashita, M. (2015) Social-Ecological Evolutionary Resilience: A Proposal to Enhance “Sustainability Transformation” about Theoretical Foundation. Open Access Library Journal, 2, 1-8. doi: 10.4236/oalib.1101426.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Rotmans, J. (2005) Societal Innovation: Between Dream and Reality Lies Complexity. Inaugural Address, Erasmus Research Institute of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam.
[2] Loorbach, D. (2007) Transition Management, New Mode of Governance for Sustainable Development. Ph.D. Dissertation, Erasmus University Rotterdam, International Books.
[3] Loorbach, D., van Bakel, J.C., Whiteman, G. and Rotmans, J. (2009) Business Strategies for Transitions towards Sustainable Systems. Business Strategy and the Environment, Published online in Wiley InterScience, 10.1002.
[4] Olsson, P., Galaz, V. and Boonstra, W.J. (2014) Sustainability Transformations: A Resilience Perspective. Ecology and Society, 19, 1.
[5] Hull, D.L. (1988) Science as a Process. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
[6] Holling, C.S. (1973) Resilience and Stability of Ecological Systems. Annual Review of Ecological and Systematics, 4, 1-23.
[7] Gunderson, L.H. and Holling, C.S. (2002) Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems. Island Press, Washington.
[8] Pimm, S.L. (1984) The Complexity and Stability of Ecosystems. Nature, 307, 321-326.
[9] Holling, C.S. (1996) Engineering Resilience versus Ecological Resilience. In: Schulze, P.E., Ed., Engineering within Ecological Constraints, National Academy Press, Washington DC, 31-43.
[10] Folke, C., Carpenter, S.R., Walker, B., Scheffer, M., Chapin, T. and Rockström, J. (2010) Resilience Thinking: Integrating Resilience, Adaptability and Transformability. Ecology and Society, 15, 20.
[11] Tanner, T.M. and Bahadur, A.V. (2013) Distilling the Characteristics of Transformational Change in a Changing Climate. Proceedings of Transformation in Changing Climate International Conference, Oslo, 19-21 June 2013, 33-42.
[12] Davoudi, S. and Porter, L. (2012) Resilience: A Bridging Concept or a Dead End? Planning Theory & Practice, 13, 299-307.
[13] Brand, F.S. and Jax, K. (2007) Focusing the Meaning(s) of Resilience: Resilience as a Descriptive Concept and a Boundary Object. Ecology and Society, 12, 23.
[14] Merriam-Webster (2015)
[15] Oxford Dictionaries (2015)
[16] Adger, W.N. (2000) Social and Ecological Resilience: Are They Related? Progress in Human Geography, 24, 347-364.
[17] Brock, W.A., et al. (2002) Resilience and Sustainability: The Economic Analysis of Nonlinear Dynamic Systems. In: Gunderson, L.H. and Holling, C.S., Eds., Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems, Island Press, Washington DC, 261-289.
[18] Perrings, C.A. (2006) Resilience and Sustainable Development. Environment and Development Economics, 11, 417-427.
[19] Adger, W.N., Hughes, T.P., Folke, C., Carpenter, S.R. and Rockström, J. (2005) Social-Ecological Resilience to Coastal Disasters. Science, 309, 1036-1039.
[20] Folke, C., Carpenter, S., Elmqvist, T., Gunderson, L., Holling, C.S. and Walker, B. (2002) Resilience and Sustainable Development: Building Adaptive Capacity in a World of Transformations. AMBIO, 31, 437-440.
[21] Folke, C. (2006) Resilience: The Emergency of a Perspective for Social-Ecological Systems Analyses. Global Environmental Change, 16, 253-267.
[22] Walker, B., Gunderson, L., Kinzig, A., Folke, C., Carpenter, S. and Schultz, L. (2006) A Handful of Heuristics and Some Propositions for Understanding Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems. Ecology and Society, 11, 13.
[23] Walker, B., Carpenter, S., Anderies, J., Abel, N., Cumming, G.S., Janssen, M., et al. (2002) Resilience Management in Social-Ecological Systems: A Working Hypothesis for a Participatory Approach. Ecology and Society, 6, 14.
[24] Folke, C., Carpenter, S., Walker, B., Scheffer, M., Elmqvist, T., Gunderson, L., et al. (2004) Regime Shifts, Resilience, and Biodiversity in Ecosystem Management. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systemtics, 35, 557-581.
[25] Holling, C.S. (2001) Understanding the Complexity of Economic, Ecological and Social Systems. Ecosystems, 4, 390-405.
[26] Carpenter, S.R., Walker, B., Anderies, J.M. and Abel, N. (2001) From Metaphor to Measurement: Resilience of What to What. Ecosystems, 4, 765-781.
[27] Cumming, G.S. and Collier, J. (2005) Change and Identity in Complex Systems. Ecology and Society, 10, 29.
[28] Perrings, C.A. (2006) Resilience and Sustainable Development. Environment and Development Economics, 11, 417-427.
[29] Strunz, S. (2012) Is Conceptual Vagueness an Asset? Arguments from Philosophy of Science Applied to the Concept of Resilience. Ecological Economics, 76, 112-118.
[30] O’Brien, K. (2011) Global Environmental Change Ⅱ: From Adaptation to Deliberate Transformation. Progress in Human Geography, Published Online.
[31] Béné, C., et al. (2012) Resilience: New Utopia or New Tyranny? Reflection about the Potentials and Limits of the Concept of Resilience in Relation to Vulnerability Reduction Programmes. IDS Working Papers, 2012, 1-61.
[32] Gotham, K. and Campanella, R. (2010) Toward a Research Agenda on Transformative Resilience: Challenges and Opportunities for Post-Trauma Urban Ecosystems. Critical Planning Summer.
[33] Simmie, J. and Martin, R. (2010) The Economic Resilience of Regions: Towards an Evolutionary Approach. Cambridge Journal of the Regions, Economy and Society, 3, 27-43.
[34] Davoudi, S. (2011) The Legacy of Positivism and the Emergence of Interpretive Tradition in Spatial Planning. Regional Studies, 46, 1-13.
[35] Mcevory, D. and Fünfgeld, H. (2011) Resilience as a Useful Concept for Climate Change Adaptation? Planning Theory & Practice, 13, 324-328.
[36] Nilakant, V., Walker, B., van Heugen, K., Baird, R. and de Vries, H. (2014) Research Note: Conceptualising Adaptive Resilience Using Grounded Theory. New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations, 39, 79-86.
[37] O’Brien, K. and Sygna, L. (2013) Responding to Climate Change: The Three Spheres of Transformation. Proceedings of Transformation in Changing Climate International Conference, Oslo, 19-21 June 2013, 16-23.
[38] Westley, F., Olsson, P., Folke, C., Homer-Dixon, T., Vredenburg, H., Loorbach, D., Thompson, J., Nilsson, M., Lambin, E., Sendzimir, J., Banerjee, B., Galaz, V. and van der Leeuw, S. (2011) Tipping toward Sustainability: Emerging Pathways of Transformation. AMBIO, 40, 762-780.
[39] Shaw, K. (2012) “Reframing” Resilience: Challenges for Planning Theory and Practice. Planning Theory & Practice, 13, 308-312.
[40] Valikangas, L. (2010) The Resilient Organization: How Adaptive Cultures Thrive Even When Strategy Fails. McGraw-Hill, New York.
[41] Hodgson, A. (2011) Is Resilience Enough? Decision Integrity Limited International Futures Forum.
[42] Wilson, S., Pearson, L.J., Kashima, Y., Lusher, D. and Pearson, C. (2013) Separating Adaptive Maintenance (Resilience) and Transformative Capacity of Social-Ecological Systems. Ecology and Society, 18, 22.
[43] Robinson, M. (2010) Making Adaptive Resilience Real. Arts Council England, London.
[44] Anthony, K., et al. (2015) Operationalizing Resilience for Adaptive Coral Reef Management under Global Environmental Change. Global Change Biology, 21, 48-61.
[45] Cutter, S., Barnes, L., Berry, M., Burton, C., Evans, E., Tate, E. and Webb, J. (2008) A Place-Based Model for Understanding Community Resilience to Natural Disasters. Global Environmental Change, 18, 598-606.
[46] Scheffer, M. (2009) Critical Transitions in Nature and Society. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
[47] Leach, M. (2008) Re-Framing Resilience: A Symposium Report. STEPS Centre, Brighton.
[48] Seville, E. (2009) Resilience: Great Concept but What Does It Mean for Organizations? In: Ministry of Civil Defense and Emergency Management, Eds., Community Resilience: Research, Planning and Civil Defense Emergency Management, Ministry of Civil Defense & Emergency Management, Wellington, 9-14.

Copyright © 2021 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.