Resilience: the ball-and-cup metaphor

Voices of Resilience introduces Rupert Seidl, Professor of forest ecosystem management and Deputy Head of the Institute of Silviculture at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), Vienna, Austria. His research focuses on understanding how climate and disturbances affect forest ecosystem dynamics, and on applying this knowledge towards increasing the robustness of forest management in a changing world.

Figure 1. The ball and the cup metaphor. If the ball is hard to get out of the cup, it is resilient. If it easy to get the ball out of the cup, it lacks resilience. Picture is from Seidl et al. 2016, Journal of Applied Ecology.
During a presentation in Bonn, he explained the ball-and-cup metaphor, which is a clear analogy of what he considers resilience (see Searching for resilience: addressing the impacts of changing disturbance regimes on forest ecosystem services). The bottom of the cup represents the point where the ecosystem tends to remain while the ball is the state of the ecosystem at any given time. The ecological resilience concept assumes multiple cups, so a system may move about within the cup, never settling at the bottom; or it may also cross a threshold and settle in a new cup. In practice, this would mean that a forest might not always return back to the same forest after a severe disturbance, but might instead change into a shrubland.

Rupert is invited to our upcoming ThinkForest event in Prague: How to Respond to Forest Disturbances in Europe.

Voices of Resilience is an interview series with different scientists, some of who participated in a scientific workshop in September 2018 in Bonn. Given that our German unit coordinates EFI’s Resilience Programme, “Operationalizing Forest Resilience” brought scientists from Europe and the USA to discuss how they can help forest managers to implement resilience in practice. Our first Voices of Resilience feature showed the innovative work of Kathy Steppe, Professor at Ghent University and Head of the Laboratory of Plant Ecology. She developed The Twittering Tree, a monitoring network, which shows trees’ growth in real-time. Be on the lookout for new videos!

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