There are several conceptual definitions of resilience pertaining to environmental systems and, even if resilience is clearly defined in a particular context, it is challenging to quantify. We identify four characteristics of the response of a system function to disturbance that relate to "resilience": (1) degree of return of the function to a reference level; (2) time taken to reach a new quasi-stable state; (3) rate (i.e. gradient) at which the function reaches the new state; (4) cumulative magnitude of the function (i.e. area under the curve) before a new state is reached. We develop metrics to quantify these characteristics based on an analogy with a mechanical spring and damper system. Using the example of the response of a soil function (respiration) to disturbance, we demonstrate that these metrics effectively discriminate key features of the dynamic response. Although any one of these characteristics could define resilience, each may lead to different insights and conclusions. The salient properties of a resilient response must thus be identified for different contexts. Because the temporal resolution of data affects the accurate determination of these metrics, we recommend that at least twelve measurements are made over the temporal range for which the response is expected.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by BBSRC competitive research grants 204/D17562