Panarchy has been increasing in importance as a perspective for understanding ecosystems, linked social–ecological systems and governance. The concept is intrinsically linked to resilience and fol- lows from attempts to characterize and assess resilience in complex systems. Panarchy can be utilized in both the abstract conceptual sense, and as a model of system dynamics that gives rise to concrete and testable hypotheses regarding the functioning of complex systems.
Ecosystems and social systems are characterized by bottom-up and top-down controls and thresholds, multiple scales and nonlinear dynamics. Pro- cesses are generally scale specific, and a limited number of processes operating at distinct scales are responsible for the characteristic structures in time and space that define specific systems. This is important for humanity because self-organization (reinforcement between processes and structures) in complex systems such as ecosystems means they are relatively stable, that is, their variability stays within the systems’ domain of attraction.