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Murray Scown photo

Murray Scown

Associate Senior Lecturer

Murray Scown photo

Sustainability and resilience for riverine landscapes


  • Murray W. Scown

Summary, in English

Sustainability and resilience are two related but distinct theories of coupled environmental and social systems. Both have been heavily debated and contested over recent decades, and both are highly relevant for understanding, managing, and living with and within riverine landscapes. In this chapter, I summarise key concepts of sustainability and social–ecological resilience theories and discuss their importance for riverine landscapes and, conversely, the importance of riverine landscapes for global sustainable development. I argue that sustainability is a normative concept involving goal setting, whereas resilience is a property of system dynamics that is not normative until people put a value on any particular state of a system. Justice, equity and equality issues are at the core of sustainability, whereas issues of feedbacks, multiple states, and cross-scale interactions affect resilience. Both theories emphasise adaptation and transformation of environmental and social systems. I argue that sustainability must be underpinned by an appreciation of resilience, and that for resilience to be meaningfully applied in management, there should be some normative framework of sustainability. I finish by discussing adaptive policy pathways, adaptive governance, sociohydrology, the hydrosocial cycle and sociogeomorphology, which can and should be used to understand and manage riverine landscapes for sustainability and resilience.


  • LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)

Publishing year







Resilience and Riverine Landscapes

Document type

Book chapter


ScienceDirect, Elsevier


  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • Adaptive cycles
  • Justice
  • River management
  • Sociohydrology
  • Sustainable development




  • ISBN: 9780323917162
  • ISBN: 9780323972055