L Gunderson, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Summary Further Reading

Scale and Ecosystems Hierarchy and Panarchy Cross-Scale Interactions

Panarchy is a conceptual model of how ecological systems change across scales of space and time. From the perspective of systems ecology, ecosystems are self-organized systems that cover a broad range of spatial and temporal scales. The interactions among biotic and abiotic components generate ecosystem dynamics that are both slow and fast as well as small and large. Panarchy theory attempts to explain qualitatively different types of change, by linking theories of hierarchy (how structures and processes are organized across scales) with a heuristic of adaptive cycles (how structure and process change within a given scale range).

The remainder of this article is structured into three parts. The first section defines terms of scales and dimensions in ecological systems. The second section contrasts two theoretical descriptions of hierarchy and panarchy. The third section describes cross-scale interactions.

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