Landscape Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 1161–1173 | Cite as

Highlighting order and disorder in social–ecological landscapes to foster adaptive capacity and sustainability

  • Giovanni Zurlini
  • Irene Petrosillo
  • K. Bruce Jones
  • Nicola Zaccarelli
Research Article


Landscape sustainability can be considered in terms of order and disorder, where order implies causality, well-defined boundaries and predictable outcomes, while disorder implies uncertain causality, shifting boundaries and often-unpredictable outcomes. We address the interplay of order and disorder in social–ecological landscapes (SELs) using spatiotemporal analysis of entropy-related indices of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index time-series. These indices can provide insights for complex systems analysis for the evaluation of adaptive capacity in SELs. In particular, our overarching aim is to help interpret what an increase of order/disorder means with regards to SELs and the underlying drivers and causes of conditions in SELs. The approach can be used to increase spatially explicit anticipatory capability in environmental science and natural resource management based on how the system has responded to stress in the past. Such capability is crucial to address SEL adaptive capacity and for sustainable planning given that surprises may increase as a consequence of both climate change and multiple interacting anthropogenic stressors. These advancements should greatly contribute to the application of spatial resilience strategies in general, and to sustainable landscape planning in particular, and for the spatially explicit adaptive comanagement of ecosystem services.


Spectral entropy Order and disorder Adaptive capacity Sustainability NDVI-related indices 



The paper benefited from many conversations with Bai-Lian Li and Felix Müller over several years. We also thank three anonymous reviewers and the editor for their helpful thought-provoking comments and suggestions that much improved the original version of the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giovanni Zurlini
    • 1
  • Irene Petrosillo
    • 1
  • K. Bruce Jones
    • 2
  • Nicola Zaccarelli
    • 1
  1. 1.Landscape Ecology Laboratory, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences and TechnologiesUniversity of SalentoLecceItaly
  2. 2.U.S. Geological SurveyLas VegasUSA

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