Date of this Version
Front. Environ. Sci. 7:68
Natural disasters, such as hurricanes and forest fires, could trigger collapse and reorganization of social-ecological systems. In the face of external perturbations, a resilient system would have capacity to absorb impacts, adapt to change, learn, and if needed, reorganize within the same regime. Within this context, we asked how human and natural systems in Louisiana responded to Hurricane Katrina, and how the natural disaster altered the status of these systems. This paper discusses community resilience to natural hazards and addresses the limitations for assessing disaster resilience. Furthermore, we assessed social and environmental change in New Orleans and southern Louisiana through both a spatial and temporal lens (i.e., pre- and post-Katrina). By analyzing changes in system condition using social, economic and environmental factors, we identified some of the characteristics of the system’s reorganization trajectories. Our results suggest that although the ongoing population recovery may be a sign of revitalization, the city and metropolitan area continue to face socioeconomic inequalities and environmental vulnerability to natural disasters. Further, the spatial distribution of social-ecological condition over time reveals certain levels of change and reorganization after Katrina, but the reorganization did not translate into greater equity. This effort presents an enhanced approach to assessing social-ecological change pre and post disturbance and provides a way forward for characterizing pertinent aspects of disaster resilience.