Management for resilience


Management of marine systems to support and build resilience has been considered to require four key attributes:98

  1. Embracing uncertainty and change: management systems need to accept that external change, such as climate effects, evolving market demands, or changes to economic subsidies and government policies, are inherently a part of resilient systems.
  2. Building knowledge and understanding of resource and ecosystem dynamics: supporting resilience requires an understanding of ecosystem processes and functions; the scale of issues and the functional roles of biodiversity are crucial components of marine resilience.
  3. Developing management practices that measure, interpret and respond to ecological feedback: successful management must continuously test, learn from and modify its activities and understanding for coping with change and uncertainty in complex systems. Knowledge of ecosystems should evolve with the institutional and organisational aspects of management.
  4. Supporting flexible institutions and social networks in multilevel governance systems: an adaptive governance framework relies on the collaboration of a diverse set of stakeholders operating at different social and ecological scales. The sharing of management power and responsibility can involve multiple institutional linkages among user groups or communities, government agencies and nongovernmental organisations, from local to international levels.

Considering fishing, developing management systems that are consistent with multiscale ecological drivers to support resilience is a major challenge. Institutions that manage fisheries at a very broad scale are likely to ignore local heterogeneity (e.g. small-scale spawning aggregations that are readily fished to extinction) and thereby reduce population-level diversity and resilience. Conversely, institutions that are narrowly concerned with a particular locality or a particular species are susceptible to external processes (such as recruitment failure, climate change and market demands) that operate predominantly at larger scales.98 Similarly, institutions that are concerned mainly with resource management are susceptible to ignoring the environmental changes brought about by resource extraction but expressed at scales that are inconsistent with the resource management system or the natural scales at which the ecological system operates.

Considering coral reef ecotourism, resilience has been linked to the type and level of stakeholder engagement. Higher lifestyle values in tourist operators (more experience, more active choice of tourism venture) are also associated with a higher level of support for reef conservation in tourists, a greater level of participation in reef conservation activities and a greater level of resilience of the tourism venture itself. It is perhaps unsurprising that coral condition relates to the resilience of tourism ventures (although the relationship is far from clear), but perhaps of greater relevance is the role that such tourists play in supporting reef conservation values, and hence indirectly promoting reef resilience. This support role played by tourists appears to depend on the type of operator—operators with higher lifestyle values are likely to promote greater resilience of the social–ecological enterprise that is ecotourism, including natural values. In this sense, maintaining a tourism industry that comprises both operators and tourists with higher lifestyle values should be an important objective of resource management, since there are indirect connections to the resilience of the resource.100

Ward T (2011). Marine environment: Management for resilience. In: Australia state of the environment 2011, Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra,, DOI 10.4226/94/58b657ea7c296