Resilience of ecosystems and ecosystem services

The Advanced Systems Analysis (ASA) Program studied ecological risk assessment which evaluates impacts of immediate and long-term stressors on the environment. 

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Vise grip, apple

Environmental vulnerability should be assessed under all kinds of external disturbances in the dimensions of agriculture production, land use change, soil contamination, natural disasters, radionuclide exposure and so forth.

Mathematical models developed to deal with these undesired ecological risks include cross-validated multiple regression, holographic neural networks, Bayesian networks, comprehensive aquatic systems models, environmental contaminant dispersion models, and food web models. Considerable progress has been made in tackling ecological risk by academic research within the last decades to which ASA has made a large contribution.

In 2013 the achievements include the following. Investigation of the issue of invariance of major network properties with respect to aggregation using an example of the Sylt-Romo Bight Ecosystem, Germany [1]. By means of Network Environ Analysis and comparison of the results which it delivered, together with those previously obtained from the EcoPath tool, it was found that the total system throughflow, cycling, indirect effects ratio, and path proliferation are not affected by aggregation, whereas connectivity, homogenization, and synergism are affected.

Review of state-of-the-art models developed for ecological risk assessment and presented a system-oriented perspective for holistic risk evaluation and management [2] It was argued that assessing ecological risk by using system-based models at different levels of organization in a combined way is an evolutionary step for the application of risk evaluation in environmental management.

Based on "emergy" synthesis and set pair analysis, a characterization was performed of the relative health levels of selected urban clusters and their related ecosystem health patterns in China with the aim of helping establish effective management that promotes sustainable regional development [3]. Emergy (short for "embodied energy") is the measure of total energy transformed to generate a product or service. In this manner, path dependencies contribute to the overall energy quality of the urban ecosystems. The results indicate that the Pearl River Delta and Yangtze River Delta urban clusters are relatively strong in vigor, resilience, and urban ecosystem service function maintenance, while the Jing-Jin-Tang is relatively strong in organizational structure and environmental impact.


[1] Fath BD, Scharler UM, Baird D (2013). Dependence of network metrics on model aggregation and throughflow calculations: Demonstration using the Sylt-Romo Bight Ecosystem. Ecological Modelling, 252, 214-219.
[2] Chen S, Chen B, Fath BD (2013). Ecological risk assessment on the system scale: A review of state-of-the-art models and future perspectives. Ecological Modelling, 250, 25—33.
[3] Su M, Fath BD, Yang Z, Chen B, Liu G (2013). Ecosystem health pattern analysis of urban clusters based on emergy synthesis: Results and implication for management. Energy Policy, 59, 600—613.


The study on ecosystem health in urban clusters in China is of relevance to IIASA's Chinese National Member Organization.
ASA’s main collaborators in the field of Resilience of ecosystems and ecosystem services include S. Bastianoni, Professor, University of Siena, Italy; B.Beck, Professor, School of Forest Resources, University of Georgia, USA; B.Chen, Associate Dean, School of the Environment, Beijing Normal University, China; P.P. Franzese, Professor, Parthenope University of Naples, Italy; S. Jørgensen, Professor emeritus, Royal Danish School of Pharmacy, Denmark; H. Katzmair, Founder and CEO, FAS.research, Austria; H. Liljenström, Professor, Department of Biometry and Engineering, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden; F. Müller, Professor, Ecology Center, University of Kiel, Germany; B. Patten, Professor emeritus, Institute of Ecology, University of Georgia, USA; U. Scharler, Professor, Marine Biology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, M.Su, Research Scholar, School of the Environment, Beijing Normal University, China; R. Ulanowicz, Professor emeritus, University of Florida, USA; S. Ulgiati, Professor, Parthenope University of Naples, Italy; Y.Zhang, Research Scholar, School of the Environment, Beijing Normal University, China.

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Last edited: 21 May 2014


Elena Rovenskaya

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Advanced Systems Analysis

Evolution and Ecology

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