Handbook on Resilience of Socio-Technical Systems
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Handbook on Resilience of Socio-Technical Systems

Edited by Matthias Ruth and Stefan Goessling-Reisemann

The goal to improve the resilience of social systems – communities and their economies – is increasingly adopted by decision makers. This unique and comprehensive Handbook focuses on the interdependencies of these social systems and the technologies that support them. Special attention is given to the ways in which resilience is conceptualized by different disciplines, how resilience may be assessed, and how resilience strategies are implemented. Case illustrations are presented throughout to aid understanding.
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Chapter 15: Regime shifts in social-ecological systems

Kristi Maciejewski, Reinette Biggs and Juan C. Rocha


Regime shifts entail a large, persistent reorganization of the structure and function of complex systems, and often occur abruptly and unexpectedly. Regime shifts are associated with changes in the resilience of a system and have been documented in ecosystems, social systems, economic systems, and coupled socio-technical and social-ecological systems. This chapter focuses on regime shifts in social-ecological systems, which often have substantial impacts on ecosystem services, such as crop production or flood regulation, that directly impact human well-being. The frequency of social-ecological regime shifts is increasing with ever more human pressures on the environment. At the same time, such regime shifts are usually difficult to detect and costly to reverse if they occur. Observations of abrupt change in time series data provides empirical evidence of regime shifts that can be analyzed using a variety of methods including bifurcation theory, principal component analysis (PCA), chronological clustering and sequential t-tests. Modeling may be used to understand causal relationships and the strength of feedback mechanisms. Managing the resilience of social-ecological systems in ways that support long-term sustainability relies on a deeper understanding of the mechanisms and drivers that lead to regime shifts, and the capacity to deal with such shifts when they occur.

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