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Measuring the Social-Ecological Resilience of Coastal and Small Island Communities to Inform Policy, Planning, and Practice

Dillard, Maria K (2015) Measuring the Social-Ecological Resilience of Coastal and Small Island Communities to Inform Policy, Planning, and Practice. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This study was developed in order to arrive at a set of interrelated concepts and empirical ways of measuring social-ecological resilience that are concretely applicable for policy, as well as for developing intervening programs for social change. The outcome of this research is a set of empirical indicators to measure the concept of social-ecological resilience. The measurement model is developed and applied to U.S. Caribbean and Pacific small island communities and U.S. Gulf of Mexico coastal counties (n=229), but is intended to be applicable across different types of communities with minor adjustments for the specific context.

The first phase of this research resulted in a conceptual framework for the social ecological system and the property of resilience. Next, multiple methodological approaches to indicator construction were applied and directly compared. An iterative methodology was selected and applied to arrive at seven composite indicators of social-ecological resilience: Land cover and use, Waste accumulation and treatment, Housing adequacy, Economic security, Access to support services, Education, and Population diversity. Upon construction, the indicators were applied with two distinct samples of communities. Finally, the indicators were used to construct a community typology to account for the different strengths and weaknesses of small island and coastal communities as assessed by the indicators of social-ecological resilience.

Communities with high scores on social dimensions of resilience have a greater likelihood of having low scores on ecological dimensions. This finding adds evidence to the notion that social and ecological systems are oppositional, but also provides a counterpoint – there are communities that manage to score well in both areas. While societal development and ecological condition may operate with a firm tension, communities are navigating the tension and finding ways to successfully maintain characteristics of resilience. This research is a necessary first step to investigating how some communities are able to balance their social-ecological system while others are not. Ultimately, the measurement of resilience can provide communities of island and coastal states with a way of evaluating their ability to implement, adapt, and/or support policies for change.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Dillard, Maria
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairMarx, Johnjmarx@pitt.eduJMARX
Committee CoChairStaggenborg, Suzannesuzstagg@pitt.eduSUZSTAGG
Committee MemberMarkoff, Johnjm2@pitt.eduJM2
Committee MemberHuges, Melaniehughesm@pitt.eduHUGHESM
Committee MemberRicci, Edmund Memricci@pitt.eduEMRICCI
Date: 14 September 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 7 May 2015
Approval Date: 14 September 2015
Submission Date: 28 July 2015
Access Restriction: 3 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 3 years.
Number of Pages: 269
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Sociology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: social-ecological system, resilience, community, island, county, coastal, Small island developing states, social-ecological resilience, measurement, indicators, vulnerability, adaptive capacity, policy, planning, environment, social system, ecosystem
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2015 15:07
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2018 05:15


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