How resilience is framed matters for governance of coastal social‐ecological systems

Sarah Clement*, Javad Jozaei, Michael Mitchell, Craig R. Allen, Ahjond S. Garmestani

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Effective governance of social-ecological systems (SES) is an enduring challenge, especially in coastal environments where accelerating impacts of climate change are increasing pressure on already stressed systems. While resilience is often proposed as a suitable framing to re-orient governance and management, the literature includes many different, and sometimes conflicting, definitions and ideas that influence how the concept is applied, especially in coastal environments. This study combines discourse analysis of the coastal governance literature and key informant interviews in Tasmania, Australia, demonstrating inconsistencies and confusion in the way that resilience is framed in coastal governance research and practice. We find that resilience is most often framed as (1) a rate of recovery from disturbance or (2) the process of acting in response to, or anticipation of, a disturbance. A third framing considers resilience as an emergent property of SESs. This framing, social-ecological resilience, accounts for multiple configurations of SES, which necessitates adaptation and transformation strategies to address changes across temporal and spatial scales. Coastal managers recognised the value of this third framing for governing coastal SESs, yet the confusion and inconsistency in the literature was also evident in how they understood and applied resilience in practice. Expanding the use of social-ecological resilience is essential for more effective coastal governance, given the dynamics of coastal SESs and the intensity of social, economic, and environmental drivers of change these systems face. However, this requires addressing the unclear, confused, and superficial use of resilience-oriented concepts in research and policy discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-76
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Policy and Governance
Issue number1
Early online date29 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • adaptation
  • coastal
  • environmental governance
  • framing
  • social-ecological resilience
  • social-ecological systems
  • transformation


Dive into the research topics of 'How resilience is framed matters for governance of coastal social‐ecological systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this