The governance of common-pool resources can be meaningfully examined from the somewhat broader perspective of the governance of social-ecological systems (SESs). Governance of SESs invariably involves trade-offs; trade-offs between different stakeholder objectives, trade-offs between risk and productivity, and trade-offs between short-term and long-term goals. This is especially true in the case of robustness in social-ecological systems - i.e. the capacity to continue to meet a performance objective in the face of uncertainty and shocks. In this paper we suggest that effective governance under uncertainty must include the ongoing analysis of trade-offs between robustness and performance, and between investments in robustness to different types of perturbations. The nature of such trade-offs will depend on society's perception of risk, the dynamics of the underlying resource, and the governance regime. Specifically, we argue that it is impossible to define robustness in absolute terms. The choice for society is not only whether to invest in becoming robust to a particular disturbance, but rather, what suit of disturbances to address and what set of associated vulnerabilities is it willing to accept as a necessary consequence.
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