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Panarchy and management of lake ecosystems

David G. Angeler, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment
Craig R. Allen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Center for Resilience in Agricultural Working Landscapes, School of Natural Resources
Ahjond Garmestani, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development; Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law
Lance Gunderson, Department of Environmental Sciences, Emory University
Richard K. Johnson, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment


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A key challenge of the Anthropocene is to confront the dynamic complexity of systems of people and nature to guide robust interventions and adaptations across spatiotemporal scales. Panarchy, a concept rooted in resilience theory, accounts for this complexity, having at its core multiscale organization, interconnectedness of scales, and dynamic system structure at each scale. Despite the increasing use of panarchy in sustainability research, quantitative tests of its premises are scarce, particularly as they pertain to management consequences in ecosystems. In this study we compared the physicochemical environment of managed (limed) and minimally disturbed reference lakes and used time series modeling and correlation analyses to test the premises of panarchy theory: (1) that both lake types show dynamic structure at multiple temporal scales, (2) that this structure differs between lake types due to liming interacting with the natural disturbance regime of lakes, and (3) that liming manifests across temporal scales due to cross-scale connectivity. Hypotheses 1 and 3 were verified whereas support for hypothesis 2 was ambiguous. The literature suggests that liming is a “command-and-control” management form that fails to foster self-organization manifested in lakes returning to pre-liming conditions once management is ceased. In this context, our results suggest that redundance of liming footprints across scales, a feature contributing to resilience, in the physicochemical environment alone may not be enough to create a self-organizing limed lake regime. Further research studying the broader biophysical lake environment, including ecological communities of pelagic and benthic habitats, will contribute to a better understanding of managed lake panarchies. Such insight may further our knowledge of ecosystem management in general and of limed lakes in particular.

Key words

cross-scale; lakes; liming; management; panarchy; resilience; time series modeling

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087