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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Panarchy and management of lake ecosystems

Angeler, David; Allen, Craig R.; Garmestani, Ahjond; Gunderson, Lance; Johnson, Richard


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.


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

Published in

Ecology and Society
2021, Volume: 26, number: 4, article number: 7