Commission on Ecosystem Management

Transformative Conservation in Social-Ecological Systems

We invite your feedback on a new CEM discussion paper on Transformative Conservation. The paper is available under Downloads to the right. We invite your survey response by close of business on Friday, May 29, via this survey link . The survey is expected to take 5 to 10 minutes. We will use your responses to inform how we can:

(1) Promote common understanding and language,

(2) Contribute to the movement as CEM members and leaders, and

(3) Advance mutually beneficial work (for example, the IPBES Transformative Change Assessment, the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, the Sustainable Development Goals, and Nature-based Solutions).

The science of social-ecological systems provides a framework known as "resilience thinking1"  for understanding the processes of ecosystem change that are necessary for adaptation, and long-term sustainability. Within this context resilience is viewed as one of three integrated capacities:

1.    Resilience – the capacity of a system to recover from stress and disturbance while retaining its essential functions, structure, feedbacks and identity;
2.    Adaptability – the capacity of actors (both human and biological) in a system to influence resilience; and 
3.    Transformability – the capacity of actors to create a fundamentally new system when ecological, economic, or social structures make the existing system untenable.  

Resilience, adaptability and transformability all require capacity for social learning about systemic change in response to management intervention, external shocks and change within subsystems at lower and higher levels2.  Resilience thinking is fully consistent with the twelve principles of the Ecosystem Approach3 for equitable, inclusive and holistic management agreed by the international Convention on Biological Diversity4 . The Ecosystem Approach is fundamental to the aims of IUCN and an important foundation for the work of thematic and specialist groups in IUCN’s Commission on Ecosystem Management.

Resilient ecosystems sustain biological diversity and human livelihoods in times of severe and wide-ranging change, and the concepts of “resilience-based ecosystem stewardship5” helps people to enhance the resilience of the ecosystems within which they live, and upon which their livelihoods and wellbeing depend.  The Commission on Ecosystem Management’s 2017-2020 Mandate sets forth a vision of healthy, resilient ecosystems.  This vision binds together diverse IUCN work areas such as species conservation, ecosystem restoration, governance including equity and rights, climate change adaptation, food and water security, and disaster risk reduction.

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