Fig.1. The adaptive cycle (Holling 2001, Gunderson and Holling 2002): a useful metaphor for understanding incremental and radical innovation in complex SES.† Adapted from Panarchy by Lance H. Gunderson and C. S. Holling, editors. Copyright © 2002 Island Press. Reproduced by permission of Island Press, Washington, D.C.
†The front loop of the adaptive cycle can be seen as largely characterized by incremental innovation, and the back loop is typically marked by radical innovation. Factors that trigger a switch from the front loop to the back loop often derive from processes operating at larger or smaller scales than that of the system of interest (Holling et al. 2002). “Traps” in the adaptive cycle may also be seen in the context of innovation. A “poverty trap” (stuck in the α-phase) refers to a situation where the system is unable to move out of the back loop because of a lack of new ideas or an inability to choose an option and act upon it, given a lack of resources, for example. A “rigidity trap” (stuck in the K-phase) results from resistance to the adoption of new innovations because of, for example, large, rigid bureaucracies or powerful groups with vested interests (Miller 1993, Holling et al. 2002, Carpenter and Brock 2008). Boxes indicate the phases of transformation in ecosystem management identified by Olsson et al. (2004) that we have mapped onto the adaptive cycle.