Adaptive capacity of social-ecological systems: Lessons from immune systems

Marco A. Janssen, Erik E. Osnas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations


How do systems respond to disturbances? The capacity of a system to respond to disturbances varies for different types of disturbance regimes. We distinguish two types of responses: one that enables the system to absorb disturbances from an existing disturbance regime, and one that enables a system to reconstruct itself after a fundamental change in a disturbance regime. We use immune systems as a model for how systems can deal with disturbances, and use this model to derive insights in adaptive capacity of social-ecological systems. We identify a tension between the two types of responses where one benefits from learning and memory while the other requires fast-turnover of experience. We discuss how this may affect building up adaptive capacity of social-ecological systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-101
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2005
Externally publishedYes



  • Adaptive capacity
  • Disturbance regime
  • Immune systems
  • Resilience
  • Social-ecological systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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