Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit


Date of this Version



Garmestani, A.S., and C. R. Allen. 2013. Panarchy. In, A. H. El-Shaarawi and W. W. Piegorsch, editors. Encyclopedia of Environmetrics. John Wiley and Sons, Chichester, UK.


US government work.


Panarchy is the term coined to describe hierarchical systems where control is not only top down, as typically considered, but also bottom up [1]. Hierarchical organization is an important property of complex systems and is characterized by the vertical separation of low-frequency dynamics of large extent and high-frequency dynamics of small extent [2]. The partitioning of system dynamics manifests in the compartmentalization of structure and processes, which provides complex systems with common properties, including enhanced adaptive capacity and the ability to evolve faster than if the system were not compartmentalized [2]. Complex systems selforganize into hierarchies because this structure limits the possible spread of destructive phenomena (e.g., forest fires, epidemics) that could result in catastrophic system failure. Thus, hierarchical organization enhances the resilience of complex systems [2, 3].