Commission on Ecosystem Management


Ecosystems provide the foundation for all forms of human livelihood and their resilience is influenced by the complex, unpredictable interactions that occur between humans and nature. Resilience defines an ecosystem’s ability to adapt to changing conditions in order to maintain its identity, structure, functions and services. The word “resilience” is used in different professional and academic contexts ranging from psychology to engineering; from disaster management to natural resources management. IUCN, its programmes, commissions, and members would benefit from a common understanding of resilience that emphasizes the interactions between humans and nature.

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The mission of the IUCN CEM Resilience Thematic Groups is to clarify the concept of resilience with respect to simple and complex systems and demonstrate the value of tools for resilience-based natural resource stewardship, disaster risk reduction and ecosystem-based adaptation.
Resilience-based ecosystem stewardship conserves biological and cultural diversity to meet the changing needs of people and nature.


The Thematic Group pursues its mission by:

  • Building capacity among practitioners for resilience thinking and assessment in a “learning-by-doing” process based on practical action that:

      o Provides tools and guidance to assess resilience in a wide range of ecosystems and biomes;
      o Communicates lessons learned from case studies undertaken within a common framework for social learning based on monitoring, adaptive and reflexive management across practitioner networks; and

  • Assists the development of policies that support the emergence of resilience in social and ecological systems.

To enhance understanding we are seeking practical examples in relevant fields that demonstrate how resilience can be enhanced within different settings. IUCN’s programme provides an opportunity to extract resilience lessons from existing projects in different geographical and cultural contexts and across scales that range from a local village, to regional trans-boundary natural resource management areas. 
A platform to facilitate sharing of lessons learned from these case studies is being created to develop knowledge and aid communication for policy and regulatory frameworks.

Relevance of resilience

The following examples illustrate the potential uses and importance of resilience in meeting challenges in conservation and development:

  1. Management of resilience can help communities’ adapt to changing climatic and other conditions in Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).  
  2. Assessing the resilience of ecosystems that are at risk will assist managers plan recovery of capacity, structure and function to sustain delivery of services needed by people and biological systems.
  3. Protected Areas conserve ecosystems and species. The inherent resilience of protected areas is eroding due to climate change and increasing human development. If protected areas are not managed for resilience, it is likely that their ability to conserve biodiversity will be compromised and ultimately lost.
  4. Managing priority biome ecosystems (i.e., forests, marine, freshwater and wetlands, drylands, and islands) to promote resilience will require models of systemic change to be tested and adapted for more effective management in the face of climate and other disturbances.
  5. Resilient ecosystems underpin nature-based solutions for human development and livelihoods and foster sustainability. An understanding of resilience in complex systems enables stewardship to restore and adapt ecosystems, enabling people to adapt to climate change. Tools based on resilience-thinking can help natural resource dependent businesses manage for sustainability of supplies; and developers, regulatory agencies and insurers who assess impacts, to assess risk of undesirable change.


The CEM Resilience Thematic Group comprises three parts:

Steering Committee recruits members to the Specialist Network and guides development of the Task Force. Current members are: Angela Andrade (Colombia; CEM Deputy Chair), Edmund Barrow, Steve Edwards (USA; CEM Steering Committee member), Mike Jones (Sweden; Chair of the Task Force) and Patrick MacQuarrrie (Switzerland; IUCN Water Programme)
Specialist Network comprising volunteer scientists and practitioners from diverse environmental management professions and disciplines, with resilience skills or an interest in developing those skills to provide technical advice to resource managers, build networks of resilience-based practice within their fields of interest, contribute to resilience scholarship and policy discourse. 
Practitioner Networks comprising individuals who are managing natural resources, policy-makers seeking to foster increased resilience, and individuals who will prepare case studies.

If you are interested in joining the Resilience Specialist Network of the Practitioner Learning Network please contact Mike Jones at:

Priorities for action

  1. Recruit specialists to engage in a framing exercise that will capture and differentiate between the multiple ways in which “resilience” is used in the IUCN community.
  2. Assess case studies in collaboration with the CEM/EMP Red List of Ecosystems Thematic Group to gain greater understanding of thresholds beyond which the identity, structure and function of ecosystems are changed or lost.
  3. Communicate resilience thinking from an ecosystems perspective in the context of the CBD, UNCCC, UNCCD and World Parks Congress, drawing on experience with EbA, DRR, ecosystem restoration, ecosystem red listing and other pertinent IUCN initiatives.  
  4. Provide practical guidance to different ecosystem management sectors (e.g., forestry; watershed management; dryland, marine, wetland, and island ecosystems) to build greater resilience.
  5. Develop a learning framework that can be applied at multiple levels to compile knowledge about resilience-based natural resources management.

Thematic Group Lead

Mike Jones (

Co-lead: Dorian Fougeres (

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