U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Date of this Version



Clean Techn Environ Policy; DOI 10.1007/s10098-013-0682-7


Resilience is an emergent property of complex systems. Understanding resilience is critical for sustainability science, as linked social–ecological systems and the policy process that governs them have the capacity for nonlinear dynamics. The possibility of nonlinear change in these systems means that there is an inherent degree of uncertainty in social–ecological systems and the policy process. Abrupt, nonlinear change often results in social and/or ecological surprises that create tremendous challenges for environmental management. Thus, it is necessary to improve environmental management via a suite of mechanisms that have the capacity for adaptation. This paper suggests how we can move closer to achieving this goal through an overarching focus, including reformed and new law, adaptive management and adaptive governance, scenario planning, and leading indicators.