Panarchy: ripples of a boundary concept


How do social-ecological systems change over time? In 2002 Holling and colleagues proposed the concept of Panarchy, which presented social-ecological systems as an interacting set of adaptive cycles, each of which is produced by the dynamic tensions between novelty and efficiency at multiple scales. Initially introduced as a conceptual framework and set of metaphors, panarchy has gained the attention of scholars across many disciplines and its ideas continue to inspire further conceptual developments. Almost twenty years after this concept was introduced we review how it has been used, tested, extended and revised. We do this by combining qualitative methods and machine learning. Document analysis was used to code panarchy features that are commonly used in the scientific literature (N = 42), a qualitative analysis that was complemented with topic modeling of 2177 documents. We find that the adaptive cycle is the feature of panarchy that has attracted the most attention. Challenges remain in empirically grounding the metaphor, but recent theoretical and empirical work offer some avenues for future research.

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