Developing a conceptual framework to assess the social-ecological resilience of the Canadian agroecosystem

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Beauchemin, Marie-Helene
There is a pressing need to develop a coherent and appropriate conceptualization of ‘resilience’ in the context of agricultural production as well as a tool for its practical assessment. Here I do both. I use a systematic and integrative approach to review and assess recent conceptualizations of ‘resilience’ and analytical frameworks. Following this review, I develop six conditions enabling resilience in agroecosystems, which inform the development of a conceptual framework and the selection of variables and indicators. Applying the conceptual framework to the Canadian agroecosystem in a general manner serves to identify opportunities for farmers and policy-makers to assess, discuss, and manage agroecosystem resilience. The high-level assessment demonstrates that important changes underway in the Canadian agroecosystem support resilience through re-organization, adaptation, and learning. However, the current focus on maximizing productivity and efficiency often leads to reduced diversity; increased connectivity; protection against disturbances; reliance on anthropogenic inputs; and missed opportunities for shared learning and experimentation. This focus on productivity may not support the long-term resilience of agroecosystem. Therefore, ensuring that agroecosystems can adjust to big and small disturbances in the future requires that we shift our thinking to recognize and support the complex adaptive nature of agroecosystems and adopt adaptive management approaches.
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