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:: GIC Work on Resiliency and Sustainability

What is 'ecosystem resiliency'?

Resilience is the capacity of an ecosystem to respond to a perturbation or disturbance by resisting damage and recovering quickly. It is the ability to maintain or regain equilibrium in the face of such disruptions. It is used to measure the persistence of systems and of their ability to absorb change and disturbance, while maintaining the same relationships between populations or state variables.

In natural ecosystems, resilience is a result of a few critical factors:

  • Equilibrium is dynamic, not static, so flexibility and adaptability are key.
  • Such qualities are supported by diversity and integration that spread risk and maximize effort and efficiency.
  • A certain amount of robustness resists chronic stress that can make a system more vulnerable to episodic events.
  • Resilience applies to all scales, and exists at each level of a system’s hierarchy.

Such perturbations and disturbances can include such events as extreme fires, flooding, windstorms, insect population explosions – as well as human activitie such as land conversion from natural to developed uses, fracking of the ground for oil extraction, or the introduction of exotic plant or animal species. These human activities can adversely affect ecological resilience by reducing biodiversity, over-exploiting natural resources, or polluting the ecosystem. In addition, anthropogenic climate change is causing regime shifts in ecosystems, often to less desirable and degraded conditions.

Resiliency can also be applied to human communities. Places with greater social cohesion, cooperation and support for community engagement are also indicators of a resilient community.  In developed landscapes, the key is to build both ecological and social resiliency. For example, restoring natural shorelines in developed areas and engaging the community in the work builds both types of resiliency! Social equity is also key. Plans should ensure that the most vulnerable are protected from harm – regardless of race or income.  Efforts to address flooding or to green a community should be available to everyone.

So, improving resiliency is countering all these - increasing species diversity, reducing pollution, protecting natural landscapes, mitigating against extreme fire and flooding, monitoring and removing invasive species, and so on. Ecological resilience is fostered through resilience analysis, adaptive resource management and adaptive governance.

The unique range of services the GIC offers can significantly enhance these objectives.


What makes the GIC special?

As a not-for-profit, the GIC can offer a wide range of deliverables at a very competitive price. The GIC has developed its own software and has extensive experience in map-making for forests, agriculture, coastal regions, counties and urban areas, and can offer community programs and training for staff and members of the public.

  • Data gathering
  • Land cover maps and web maps
  • Calculation of environmental benefits
  • Threats analysis
  • Case studies
  • Implementation training workshops
  • Community engagement and consensus building

GIC works in BOTH wild and developed landscapes! Following are two examples.

In July 2018, the GIC completed a two-year project to map and evaluate the city of Norfolk's green infrastructure and to create strategies for making the city more resilient in the face of a changing climate. Located in the Hampton Roads area, Norfolk sits in the second most threatened landscape for sea-level rise and increasingly extreme weather events. The plan evaluated both current green infrastructure (trees, water, wetlands and other habitats) and marsh- and forest-buffer migration as sea level rises. This strategy was created in conjunction with the city's Watershed Task Force and is the first of its kind to link current and future GI planning in the face of climate change.

Download the report here.

In GIC’s Resilient Coastal Forests Project, conducted with Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia, the following deliverables are currently being prepared for delivery:

  • A detailed land cover map that characterizes forest area extent and high-value significant habitats.
  • Calculation of benefits provided by the forested coastal landscape (e.g. storm buffering, pollution reduction and recreation.).
  • A threats analysis to the coastal forested landscape, including storm surge potential, development risks, potential pest outbreaks and existing pest impacts, invasive herbaceous species, temperature changes and resultant heat stress, potential coastline changes and loss of coastal forests, and fire potential.
  • A resiliency plan linking risks to opportunities for intervention (e.g. evaluating storm risks pre-storm, minimizing development in fire-prone and flood prone areas, and planning for forest change).
  • A web map depicting information to use for planning and management of coastal forests in each state.
  • A case study book detailing the process and outcomes, as well as how to replicate the process for coastal communities.
  • Implementation training workshops (one per state), presentation, and a webinar.

Link to the GIC's Resilient Coastal Forests Project.

GIC has developed a six-step process for doing the work and has created multiple books and guides to showcase the methods.

Other (External) Resources


An open house on resilient coastal forests, Virginia.


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The Norfolk Project Guide. Download HERE


The Community Forest Storm Mitigation Planning Workbook. Download HERE

To learn more about storm mitigation, go to our Storm Mitigation page.

Demonstrating how to extract a core for tree ring assessment in a coastal forest.


To the left, you can see a 'ghost forest' caused by sea water innundation, Virginia.

Live oak

An Open house, Georgia.


A coastal forest in South Carolina.