Adaptability and panarchy

The adaptive capacity to environmental changes is key for stability and sustainability of open systems. The adaptability of anthropic ecosystems and cultural landscapes is mainly determined by the stakeholders behavior and management.

Recently the concept of panarchy has been proposed to develop the ACS sustainability theory. Panarchy stems as an antithesis of hierarchy, representing the framework of "nature rules", suggested by the Greek nature god Pan. This state is reinforced supported by two main issues. The first one is a four face heuristic model change: exploitation, conservation, creative destruction and renovation, which brings about an adaptive cycle. This is a fundamental model to understand ACS, such as cells, ecosystems, human societies and culture landscapes as a whole.

Three proprieties define the adaptive cycle: potential, which provides and determines the limits of changing capacity; connectivity, which provides the variable internal control and consistency; resilience, which determines the vulnerability of each system’s shifting. The adaptive cycle model provides the conceptual bases for understanding hierarchy not as fixed structures but as dynamic entities [80], which is basic for cultural landscape sustainability.

2. Concluding remarks

To come closer to sustainability it is necessary understand the ontology and epistemology of the relation and interaction between Nature and human society, which implies deal with the artificialization of the first one for the stakeholders. This is a central part of agriculture and cultural landscape construction.

The evolution of perception, as well as the interest, stimulus, and priorities of the social actors involved in the construction of agricultural and rural territories is constantly changing. It’s related to the spirit of age (Zeitgeist), the spirit of place (Volkgeist), and certainly, to their culture and the characteristics of their territory.

The main concern associated to agricultural sustainability is discovering the problems affecting the stakeholders and their activities. In this context, technology, nature, society, economy, and ecology are related in different ways and intensities to rurality and agriculture sensu lato, in line with the meaning given, as well as where the problem is located and framed.

Landscape is a set of countless ways to characterize, and differentiate a specific area of land. It’s a natural and cultural association of society with the components of the land. The cultural landscape is the consequence from the technological activities carried out by the stakeholders in a territory, and its transformation into sustainable or non sustainable agriculture. The cultural landscape concept emphasizes culture as the main dynamic determinant of the territorial evolution, aiming and associating it with the stakeholders’ behavior.

Modern agriculture deals with extreme capital use, high technology, reduction of manual labor, high energy and water inputs, as well as, great mechanical labor, all things taking place in high input and high output ecosystems. It’s associated with policies, development strategies, institutions, resources and technologies regulated from urban centers and markets. All of this generates, in rural areas, a significant ecological and agricultural footprint. The main ones are: carbon, water, energy, information, and all of this generate a substantial biodiversity loss, as well as, niches, ecodiversity and adaptability reduction. This process, has taken place in combination with a divergence and dissociation of agriculture and the integral rural development.

Rural landscape plays other roles beside those of agriculture, such as: gas regulation, climate stability, water regulation, erosion control, nutrient cycles, biological regulation, recreation, culture conservation, soil formation, as well as, the generation of genetic resources. Agricultural sustainability is a component of the rural landscape and actors. As such, it should also be analyzed in a complementary context, take into account its interaction with the urban areas and the protected wild areas.

Currently, the social and territorial development focuses on the relationship of sustainability with life quality for the collective construction of the territory, associated to the paradigmatic change of science and culture. Several well known schools of thought and intellectual scientific, and philosophical currents approach to this quandary is in a holistic and systemic transdisciplinary way.

The unifying agricultural and rural areas sustainable concept is linked to the territorial governance, limits, regulations, in addition to the development of the rural cultural landscapes.

Only if stakeholders operate with prudence in the artificializacion of ecosystems and in the construction of the cultural landscape, according to the universal legality, a sustainable future will be possible. For this we must assume the challenge of design ecological-territorial systems appropriately adaptatives for our age context.

Updated: October 7, 2015 — 11:36 pm