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Keywords:

  • adaptive cycle;
  • disturbance;
  • panarchy;
  • resilience;
  • social-ecological system;
  • urban ecology;
  • urban park

Abstract

The responses of urban park woodlands to large disturbances provide the opportunity to identify and examine linkages in social-ecological systems in urban landscapes. We propose that the Panarchy model consisting of hierarchically nested adaptive cycles provides a useful framework to evaluate those linkages. We use two case studies as examples – Cherokee Park in Louisville, Kentucky, USA and Tijuca Forest in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In the Cherokee Park case study, the disturbance, a destructive tornado, triggered bottom-up societal responses that created new institutions that influenced park management and shifted the woodland community from a successional pathway dominated by invasive exotic plants to one where native plant species are regaining importance. In the Tijuca Forest example, the disturbance, large scale land-use changes during the 18th century, triggered primarily top-down societal responses to create the world's largest urban forest through a transformative programme of intensive multispecies forest replanting and management. Currently, fine scale disturbances – primarily anthropogenically caused fire – threaten portions of Tijuca Forest through loss of forest structure and establishment of flammable invasive plants, and again elicited top-down societal responses to stop further destruction and promote greater native plant regeneration. These case studies illustrate that either natural or anthropogenic disturbances to natural systems can alter the direction and magnitude of interactions between social and natural domains in urban landscapes in a co-adaptive manner that alters structures and processes in both system components.