a1 Flood Hazard Research Centre, Middlesex University, Enfield EN3 4SA, UK
Current threshold-dominated methodologies of vulnerability analysis do not give sufficient emphasis to the processes that shape the environment and define the behaviour of environmental systems. While there has been widespread recognition for developing comprehensive approaches to assessing vulnerability, there has been relatively little theoretical debate on limitations and opportunities for improving the application of vulnerability analysis to environmental management, particularly in terms of a more complex systems perspective. A functional-based approach to ‘vulnerability’ is a means whereby the dynamics of vulnerable systems could be more fully integrated within vulnerability analysis. Functionality is seen as the ability of the environment to deliver outputs through time. Vulnerability analysis that is focused not only on thresholds that define the limits of system behaviour, but also on the process-defined capacity of systems to maintain this behaviour and deliver those outputs, could emerge as a useful element in integrated environmental management. Linking threshold analysis with a clear understanding of the interactions, differences and similarities between system processes which define coping ranges and system performance is a relatively simple conceptual development in vulnerability analysis. Such a development could, if successful, be of great value to those managing complex environments.
(Received July 26 2006)
(Accepted September 04 2007)
(Online publication October 05 2007)