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Applying resilience thinking to production ecosystems

Rist, L., A. Felton, M. Nyström, M. Troell, R. A. Sponseller, J. Bengtsson, H. Österblom, R. Lindborg, P. Tidåker, D. G. Angeler, R. Milestad, and J. Moen. (2014) Ecosphere 5(6):73.


Production ecosystems typically have a high dependence on supporting and regulating ecosystem services and while they have thus far managed to sustain production, this has often been at the cost of externalities imposed on other systems and locations. One of the largest challenges facing humanity is to secure the production of food and fiber while avoiding long-term negative impacts on ecosystems and the range of services that they provide. Resilience has been used as a framework for understanding sustainability challenges in a range of ecosystem types, but has not been systematically applied across the range of systems specifically used for the production of food and fiber in terrestrial, freshwater, and marine environments. This paper applied a resilience lens to production ecosystems in which anthropogenic inputs play varying roles in determining system dynamics and outputs. We argue that the traditional resilience framework requires important additions when applied to production systems. We show how sustained anthropogenic inputs of external resources can lead to a “coercion” of resilience and describe how the global interconnectedness of many production systems can camouflage signals indicating resilience loss.

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Keywords: agriculture, aquaculture, coerced resilience, fisheries, forestry, sustainable development

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