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At its heart, resilience theory speaks to the integration of social, economic and ecological factors into a single system.

1) Social system
The community of people involved both directly and indirectly in coastal resource use and management. This includes fishers, fish farmers, farmers, charcoal makers,etc. as well as purchasers, fisheries, agricultural and forestry extension workers and managers, other government agents, NGO workers and academia.

2) Economic system
Follows a commodity chain, from coastal resource capture and production in to end use.

3) Ecological system
Assessment of the ecological system has three focal points, 1) the landscape level, 2) agro-ecosystem level, 3) habitat restoration. An improved ecological base drives continued social and economic development, by providing a diversity of opportunities and enhanced overall resilience.

By tracking some key social, economic and ecological parameters around your mangrove rehabilitation project, people engaged in mangrove rehabilitation and future management can explore management options and scenarios for the mangrove system of interest, from a resilience perspective.

Resilience can be defined as the ability of a system to absorb shocks, to avoid crossing a threshold into an alternate and possibly irreversible new state, and to regenerate after disturbance (Walker, 2002). You can see how this definition is relevant to mangrove rehabilitation, in term of thinking about coping with shocks and disturbances, avoiding degradation, and regenerating after disturbance.

Resilience theory is complex, but quite worthwhile to pursue. A good place to start is at the website of the resilience alliance ( But for now, we will only offer two additional definitions to consider, which will help
ensure that your mangrove rehabilitation intervention, is not being thought of as an ecological activity alone.

Socio-Economic-Ecological System (SEES) – an integrated system of human society, businesses and livelihoods, and the mangrove ecosystem. By seeing the system from social, economic and ecological aspects, there is less risk of over-simplifying management options. Parameters in a SEES system are understood to be interdependent, with reciprocating feedback mechanisms. The concept emphasizes the ‘humans-in-nature’ perspective.

Adaptive capacity/Adaptability – the capacity to adapt and to shape change. In a mangrove system, one of the keys to adaptation is biodiversity. A mangrove forest with a full complement of tree species will be able to colonize newly available substrates more successfully than a monospecific stand. In the age of sea-level rise, and climate change, the ability to adapt to changes in the coastal landscape may be greater than ever.

In a social-ecological system, adaptability amounts to the capacity of humans to manage resilience. Again, diversity, and even redundance may be an important attribute. If community members, both poor and rich, as well as other external stakeholders, all care about a mangrove system, it may become harder for an individual actor to affect change, such as an investor wishing to convert an area for development.

Who Uses Information from EMR Resilience Assessments?

  • Coastal communities
  • Development workers and government extension agents
  • Researchers
  • Policy makers and planners.

Why Perform a Resilience Assessment?

  • To identify at an early stage, remedies to problems caused by lack
    of management or inappropriate management.
  • To act as baseline data for evaluation of the coastal system under
    new management practices.
  • To provide policy makers and development planners a sound basis
    in formulating and revising policies and programs.

Sources of Information:

  • District and Provincial Government Offices; forestry, fisheries, agriculture,
    social, planning, etc.
  • Research, extension and technology institutions
  • National government
  • Development organizations/NGOs
  • Local people (using participatory methods; see Participatory appraisal
  • Field measurements (e.g., of species and associations of mangroves, substrate elevation, cross-sections of tidal channels).

Where possible, information from one source should be validated by checking withanother source. For instance, the local bank’s assessment of credit availability according to the local bank can be checked against local people’s own assessment. This cross-checking is called “triangulation. “

Resilient resource use: The management or use of resources within their capacity to renew themselves and maintain the integrity of the system within which they exist.Examples:

  • Substrate elevation levels may be maintained due to inputs of organic matter from the forest itself, but succumb quickly to erosive forces when that source of biomass is removed.
  • Harvest of Avicennia fruit to drive a flour making industry, with limits to percentages of harvestable fruits, to allow for natural regeneration.

By looking at social, economic and ecological indicators, when designing an intervention, there is greater likelihood of building the resilience of the whole system, in this case the integrated system of coastal communities and mangroves. As an example, it may seemed far-reachng that a mangrove rehabilitation program can influence patterns of community migration (the first social indicator), but if a large mangrove area recovers, coupled perhaps with improved management of aquaculture, or development of sustainable livelihood alternatives, the need to migrate in search of richer fisheries resources, or development of new aquaculture ponds may be reduced, thus allowing fisherfolk to remain in their own communities.

Because of the holistic nature of this type of endeavour, we use the name Resilience Assessment, to mean the measurement of social-economic and ecological factors.

The following approach and means of grossly rating various indicators was originally developed by IIRR as part of “Resource Management for Upland Areas in SE Asia,” and has been adapted for use in a coastal settings.

  1. Identify the objectives of your assessment and select appropriate indicators. A number of potential indicators have been provided, but it is important to consider the specific needs of your own program.
  2. Discuss the indicators with the local community and modify them to suit your programs specific objectives.
  3. Arrange for the team to go to the mangrove forest and coastal community and record information.
  4. Validate the information by checking against other sources.
  5. Set up baseline data and identify specific indicators and parameters.
  6. Rate the general state of the indicator you are measuring using the following grading system:
    1 = not resilient (healthy over long term)
    2 = building toward resilience
    3 = resilient
  7. Interpret rated indicators through discussions.
  8. Repeat steps 3-7 each year.
  9. Check for changes in the ratings from year to year. If a rating falls over time, the
    system is becoming less resilient.
  10. Propose changes in policy and program strategies to improve resilience.


  • Baseline data on individual coastal resources and utilization.
  • Baseline data on socioeconomic status of the local community.
  • Trends related to the coastal resource and local community after several years of replication and analysis.

This is an excerpt from Ecological Mangrove Rehabilitation: A Field Manual for Practicioners, produced by Mangrove Action Project in 2014. Download the Manual, or view it onlinebf_logo_fav