When you google the term “Resilience”, you get heavily overwhelmed: The term is used in many contexts, both in science and practice, from Psychology to Education, from city planning to climate change adaptation. Obviously, “Resilience” is established jargon, but seems to mean different things in different fields.
In European Forest Institute’s “Resilience Programme”, we investigate all questions relating to the resilience of forests and livelihoods connected to them. Yet, the ambiguity of the term poses both a challenge and an amazing opportunity for discussion. Forest scientists, policy makers as well as practitioners agree that our forests need to be more resilient to disturbances. But how can we measure resilience outputs, if we do not agree on a definition? The Guardian wrote about these challenges even in 2013:
“Nowhere is this more obvious than in the field of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, where the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Typically, organisations operating in this field need to measure something that hasn’t happened yet, and might never happen – a nightmare to model.”
On our way to develop a definition of “Resilience” in the field of forest-related research, we decided to establish a new interview series introducing scientists who deal with this term everyday – and while some use it as a normative concept, others focus on the operationalization and active resilience building. The first researcher we would like to introduce you to is Kathy Steppe, Professor at Ghent University and Head of the Laboratory of Plant Ecology. She developed together with colleagues a very innovative approach to measuring resilience: The Twittering Tree, which has currently more than 4.300 followers.