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Resilience or resiliency is considered a critical property of adaptation for communities in the face of acute environmental, economic, and social change. In this context, resiliency can be described as the ability of a community to return to conditions that are functionally similar to pre-event conditions after a disturbance.  Resiliency is often understood through three basic properties: 1) resistance, 2) response, and 3) recovery. Resistance is seen as the degree to which a system may withstand a shock such that it is not altered in the event of a disturbance. Response refers to how quickly and efficiently a system responds to a disturbance in the event that it does not withstand a shock. Recovery refers to the degree to which the system returns to pre-event conditions.

Resilience is related to the concept of stability, where a stable system is one that quickly and completely returns to its original state. A simple illustration here is to imagine a sailboat. One with a large sail and small, light keel would be speedy but not withstand adverse weather well. It would be more likely to be blown about, and more easily so. A boat with a larger, heavier keel would have more stability in adverse weather. 

In nature, recovery does not necessarily look the same as before a disturbance. The organization may include different species performing similar ecosystem functions. The critical thing is that they return to being functionally similar to pre-event conditions, though.

Maguire and Hagan (2007) refer to an additional property, which they called "creativity," which suggests that highly adaptable human systems (e.g., communities) will seize opportunities to achieve even higher functional states following perturbations. In situation 1a of the figure below, the system resists but ultimately falls below a sustainable threshold. In 1b it recovers to its original state after a short dip. In 1c, however, it recovers above and beyond its previous functional level to a higher state (the second dotted line). For communities that are "overdeveloped" in certain functional areas to the degree of being vulnerable, it may be desirable to establish different functional states.

Some recent accounts in the field have suggested that resiliency should succeed sustainability as a more appropriate approach to managing communities. The view taken here is that resiliency is a fundamental property of sustainability and not a replacement for it.

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