October 18, 2023
Panarchy is a conceptual framework that describes the ways in which complex systems of people and nature are dynamically organized and structured across scales of space and time. It was first developed by ecologist C.S. Holling in the 1970s and has since been applied to a wide range of fields, including ecology, economics, and social science.
Panarchy is based on the idea that complex systems are composed of a hierarchy of nested adaptive cycles. Adaptive cycles are four-phase cycles of growth, accumulation, release, and reorganization. Each phase of the cycle is characterized by different sets of processes and interactions.
The nested hierarchy of adaptive cycles in panarchy means that changes at one scale can have cascading effects at other scales. For example, a disturbance at the scale of a forest can lead to changes in the composition of the forest, the water cycle, and even the global climate.
Panarchy is a useful framework for understanding how complex systems change and adapt over time. It can be used to inform management and decision-making in a variety of contexts, such as natural resource management, disaster preparedness, and climate change adaptation.
Here are some examples of panarchic systems:
The human body is a panarchic system, with nested adaptive cycles at the level of cells, organs, tissues, and the whole organism.
An ecosystem is a panarchic system, with nested adaptive cycles at the level of individual organisms, populations, communities, and the ecosystem as a whole.
A human society is a panarchic system, with nested adaptive cycles at the level of individuals, families, communities, institutions, and the society as a whole.
Panarchy is a complex concept, but it is a useful framework for understanding how the world around us works. It can help us to think more holistically about the systems that we are a part of and to make more informed decisions about how to manage them.