The Focal System

In order to ascertain the resilience of a system it must first be defined and bound. Port Phillip Bay as the focal system will include the water body and the major conurbations around its coast (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Shaded area represents the Port Phillip Bay focal system. After (Australian Government, 2009)

There is no perfectly designated boundary for any system. As knowledge and management objectives change the focal system will have to be reassessed and redefined. The focal system boundary acts as the means by which the components and relationships are assessed and determines the cross scale interactions.

The components that are selected often have greater social and economic value in comparison to their ecological worth. The components that are selected by managers are often those that society wishes to sustain. If they have little use they are often undervalued. Figure 7 shows the socio-economic components as well as important environmental ones that need to be considered. The combination of all the components of a system determines the systems identity (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Relationship between ecosystem services, capital and components in determining identity
Figure 7: Socio-economic components of Port Phillip Bay

Management outcomes rely on the natural resources that a system provides. Managers cannot govern a system without assessing its natural capital and the relationships between them.  The natural resources governs the activities and types of exploiation that can occur. Figure 8 shows some of the marketable services that Port Phillip Bay provides.

Figure 8: Important and marketable services and goods available in Port Phillip Bay

The marketable resources are themselves at a lower scale determined by a set of ecosystem services. The services change and interact at low temporal and spatial scales. Ecosystem services are often overlooked by managers as they carry little or no quantifiable capital and are unmarketable. Their control on systems is strong and determines the range and quality of the exploitable resources. Disregarding them is to reduce the ability to sustain a system as it is often only a handful or small variables that determine the systems identity. A number of ecosystem services have been identified in Figure 9.

Figure 9: Ecosystem services and processes and their influence (Alabaster & Lloyd, 1982; Bronmark & Hansson, 2005; Lane & Lau, 2001; McKee et al., 2003)

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Next: Component and Service Scales


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