Adaptive Capacity and Traps


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Stephen R. Carpenter and William A. Brock, “Adaptive Capacity and Traps,” 2008.

Adaptive capacity, the ability of a system to adjust to changing internal demands and external circumstances, is a central feature of resilience. …

Although adaptive capacity is impaired in both the poverty and rigidity traps, the traps have opposite characteristics in several important dimensions. Heterogeneity of entities is high in the poverty trap, but network connections are sparse. There is little capacity to focus on an optimal solution to a current challenge, yet great scope for exploration of possible solutions. Stress is low, and there is high capacity to dissipate stress. In contrast, the rigidity trap is characterized by low heterogeneity and high connectivity of entities. There is great capacity to focus on a singular approach, and low capacity to explore alternatives. There is little capacity to dissipate stress, and stress may accumulate to high levels.