Landscape Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 1139–1150 | Cite as

Resilience, experimentation, and scale mismatches in social-ecological landscapes

  • Graeme S. CummingEmail author
  • Per Olsson
  • F. S. ChapinIII
  • C. S. Holling
Research Article


Growing a resilient landscape depends heavily on finding an appropriate match between the scales of demands on ecosystems by human societies and the scales at which ecosystems are capable of meeting these demands. While the dynamics of environmental change and ecosystem service provision form the basis of many landscape ecology studies, enhancing landscape resilience is, in many ways, a problem of establishing relevant institutions that act at appropriate scales to modify and moderate demand for ecosystem services and the resulting exploitation of ecosystems. It is also of central importance for landscape sustainability that institutions are flexible enough to adapt to changes in the external environment. The model provided by natural ecosystems suggests that it is only by encouraging and testing a diversity of approaches that we will be able to build landscapes that are resilient to future change. We advocate an approach to landscape planning that involves growing learning institutions on the one hand, and on the other, developing solutions to current problems through deliberate experimentation coupled with social learning processes.


Resilience Landscape planning Management Social learning Adaptation Ecosystem services 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Graeme S. Cumming
    • 1
    Email author
  • Per Olsson
    • 2
  • F. S. ChapinIII
    • 3
  • C. S. Holling
    • 4
  1. 1.Percy FitzPatrick Institute, DST/NRF Center of ExcellenceUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.University of StockholmStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Institute of Arctic BiologyUniversity of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA
  4. 4.NanaimoCanada

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