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Social-Ecological Systems Meta-Analysis Database: Theory

Feedbacks and general resilience

Variable relationship:

As described in Carpenter et al. (2012), strong feedback mechanisms (Commons Feedback Speed Use; Commons Feedback Visibility Use) between an ecosystem and a social system ensure that resource users and other actors are aware of how their activities impact a commons, thereby enhancing their capacity to adapt their behaviors as needed (Actor Adaptive Capacity), to maintain the Ecological Resilience of the commons and utimately its ability to remain in a desirable state (Basin Switch) in the face of perturbation.

Scientific Field
Component Type(s)


VariableRoleRole ExplanationValue
Commons feedback speed useUnderlying independent variableImpacts from the use of the commons are observed quickly allowing actors to change their interactions with the commons. Medium or High
Commons feedback visibility useUnderlying independent variableImpacts from the use of the commons are easily observed by those using and managing the system allowing actors to change their interactions with the commons.Medium or High
Actor adaptive capacityProximate independent variableQuick and visible feedbacks provides the essential new information to actors that enables them to adapt their behaviours. Feedbacks are therefore a foundation of actor adaptive capacity. This then assumes that actors will act on this information. High
Ecological resilienceIntermediate outcomeHigher levels of actor adaptive capacity increases the potential of resource users' and managers to respond to uncertainty and perturbation, and thereby to maintain or enhance the ecological resilience of the system.Moderately or highly resilient
Basin switchFinal outcomeHigher ecological resilience means the defined commons is better able to buffer, recover and adapt to disturbance events, thus remaining in a desirable stable state.No desirable

Related Theories

TheoryRelationshipCharacterizing Variables
Conditions for general resiliencenested

Related Studies


Carpenter, Stephen R., et al., 2012. General Resilience to Cope with Extreme Events. Sustainability 4 (12): 3248-3259