In this paper we aim at summarizing the current definitions of resilience in systems ecology with particular attention towards microbial systems. The recent advances of biomolecular techniques have provided scientists with new tools to investigate these systems in greater detail and with higher resolution. Therefore existing concepts and hypotheses have been revisited and discussed with respect to their applicability for ecosystems ruled by microbial processes. This review has also led to some reflections on the suitability of the term "resilience" as a general goal in environmental policies. Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.