Summary - What Did We Learn?

An initial idea of the adaptive cycle was to expand on the theory in ecology that ecosystems progress relatively linearly through phases of exploitation (r) and conservation (K) over time. This is also known as the traditional ecological succession model (see Fig. 2). The adaptive cycle expands this linear model into the more circular, lazy-eight model (Fig. 1) by adding release (Ω) and reorganization (α) phases, and reflects more recent understanding of how complex, adaptive systems function.

Figure 1. The Adaptive Cycle.

Reprinted  from "Panarchy: Discontinuities Reveal Similarities in the Dynamic System Structure of Ecological and Social Systems," by A. Garmestani, et al., 2009, Ecology and Society. Copyright by JSTOR. Reprinted by permission of A. Garmestani, US EPA.

Figure 2. Ecological succession. Reprinted from Biology 2e (Figure 45.33), 2016, CNX OpenStax. CC-BY-4.0.