In general, adaptation is the process of responding to change. In biological systems, species may adapt to change by evolving. In social systems, people may adapt by reorganizing institutions and networks.
Systems with high adaptive capacity reconfigure themselves without losing crucial functions. Systems with low adaptive capacity often sacrifice future options during reconfiguration. RAP students also explore the theory and practice of Adaptive Management, the iterative process of managing systems by using experimentation to learn about system function and reduce uncertainty. Effective adaptive management requires consideration of the social and ecological components of a system.
How do these concepts fit with sustainability science? Sustainability science addresses actions that promote human well-being while conserving the life-support systems of our planet. Research on sustainability should focus on the dynamic interactions between nature and society. Building a science of sustainability requires a truly interdisciplinary approach that integrates knowledge and practical experience from many different sources. RAP's framework is designed to follow these guidelines.