About this Research Topic
Ecological resilience, defined here as the capacity of ecosystems to reorganize and recover characteristic functions and processes following disturbance, is a key component of maintaining ecosystem services, but attempts to operationalize the concepts for conservation and restoration have been limited. Much of the literature has focused on theory, definitions, and broad conceptualizations regarding the application of resilience concepts. Much of the research has focused on the importance of species diversity and species functional attributes in affecting responses to stress and disturbance at fairly small (local) scales. Recent, interdisciplinary research demonstrates that information on the relationships between an ecosystem’s environmental characteristics (climate, topography, soils, and potential biota) and its response to stress and disturbance provides a viable mechanism for assessing ecosystem resilience.
Approaches have been developed that provide the basis for applying resilience concepts at the scales needed for effective conservation and restoration. For example, in the sagebrush biome of the western U.S. the concepts of resilience to disturbance and resistance to invasive annual grasses have recently been used in an interagency framework to enhance conservation and restoration and help prevent listing of Greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act.
In ecosystems around the globe, the levels of stress and disturbance are increasing while resources for management remain limited. Fully developing the capacity to operationalize the concept of resilience to disturbance can enable managers to prioritize the types and locations of management activities needed across large landscapes and determine the most effective management strategies for ecosystem conservation and restoration at more local scales. We propose a series of review articles that would address key questions for operationalizing resilience and discuss the management applications. We include examples from a variety of ecosystem types and scales with a focus on terrestrial ecosystems. What is the basis for applying the concept of ecosystem resilience to disturbance to conservation and restoration management?
This paper reviews the basis for applying these concepts to conservation and restoration, emphasizing the importance of the abiotic and biotic characteristics of ecosystems and different spatial scales.
• How can resilience to disturbance be evaluated and quantified at the scales need to fully operationalize the concept? These papers focus on defining metrics and using geospatial data and analyses to evaluate ecosystem resilience at management scales.
• How do relationships among the abiotic and biotic characteristics of ecosystems influence resilience to disturbance across scales? These papers focus on the fundamental relationships among the abiotic characteristics of ecosystems (geology/climate/soils/topography), biota that the ecosystem is capable of supporting, and response to disturbance.
• How can an understanding of the relationships among the abiotic and biotic characteristics of ecosystems and resilience to disturbance be applied to climate adaptation? These papers provide examples of this linkage and discuss adaptation strategies.
• How have resilience concepts been used to inform ecosystem conservation and restoration at operational scales? These papers provide real world applications of the concepts for different systems and scales.
Keywords: Resilience, Resistance, Conservation, Restoration, Management Applications
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