Adaptive capacity in social–ecological systems: a framework for addressing bark beetle disturbances in natural resource management

Stuart Cottrell, Katherine M. Mattor, Jesse L. Morris, Christopher J. Fettig, Pavlina McGrady, Dorothy Maguire, Patrick M.A. James, Jennifer Clear, Zach Wurtzebach, Yu Wei, Andrea Brunelle, Jessica Western, Reed Maxwell, Marissa Rotar, Lisa Gallagher, Ryan Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The ability of natural resource agencies to act before, during, and after outbreaks of conifer bark beetles (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) is important to ensure the continued provision of ecosystem services. Adaptive capacity refers to the capability of an agent or system to adapt to change, regardless of whether it is examined as an independent social or ecological entity, or as a coupled social–ecological system. Understanding the components of a disturbance and the associated effects to ecosystem services, social systems, and natural resource management increases the ability to adapt to change and ensure continued resilience. This paper presents a definition and conceptual framework of adaptive capacity relevant to bark beetle disturbances that was developed through an interdisciplinary workshop held in 2016. The intent is to assist natural resource managers and policy-makers in identifying important adaptation characteristics to effectively address bark beetle disturbances. The current state of knowledge regarding institutional, social, and environmental factors that influence adaptive capacity are identified. The mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) in the western USA is used as a specific example to discuss several factors that influence adaptive capacity for increasing resilience. We hope that our proposed framework serves as a model for future collaborations among both social and physical scientists and land managers to better address landscape-level disturbances that are being exacerbated by climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)555-567
Number of pages13
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Health(social science)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


  • Adaptation
  • Ecosystem services
  • Forest disturbance
  • Insect outbreaks
  • Resilience
  • Socio-ecological systems


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