Drawing a Better Panarchy Diagram


I am always on the lookout for good graphics and diagrams for my lectures on complexity and adaptive change.

I often use the Panarchy cycle, which is a useful theoretical model for explaining how complex adaptive systems change over time.  The image above is from Garry Peterson‘s excellent page describing Panarchy and the Adaptive Cycle at McGill University.  There are several other images of the adaptive cycle on Google as well.

I created my own, however, which are perfectly overlaid to animate in a PowerPoint or Keynote. Please feel free to use these images in your graphics or presentations, just as long as you credit Gunderson & Holling for their original insights.  If you use them in any printed publication or articles, please email me for permission first.

There are three versions of the slides below; one with full annotation, one with partial annotation, and one without any annotation.  They are formatted as 300 DPI jpeg’s with the exact proportion to be dropped right into your presentation.  You can download them individually by clicking on the thumbnails below.

I hope you find these useful.  Please drop me a line if you do.

Version 1m with full annotation

Version 2, with partial annotation

Version 3, with no annotation


  1. Posted July 1, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Permalink


    These are great and useful diagrams, and a boon to those of us interested in Panarchy but with poorer digital design skills. But a small but significant caveat: you’ve lost the little ‘exit’ tail at the left – which is an important prt of the theory. Another cycle is not inevitable; a system can collapse completely.


  2. Noah Raford
    Posted July 10, 2010 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    Andrew, yes that’s an important point which I usually try to address verbally when making the explanation. But it would be a good addition for these, so I’ll try to another one with the “exit tail” as soon as I can.

  3. Posted September 29, 2011 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Noah, these ideas (and hugely useful images) are great. I am going to think of a reason to use them, soon. Thanks for sharing them. Mark

  4. Noah Raford
    Posted October 10, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Mark, thanks so much for your comments. I’m glad you found them useful. Please let me know if you ever have a chance to incorporate it into any of your work. I’d love to see it in wider use.

  5. Zenarchist.Swordsman
    Posted October 28, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Ever considered using 5 stages?

  6. Noah Raford
    Posted November 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Not really; why? I didn’t make the model. It is based on empirical research by many people smarter than I. Check out the book for a fascinating read.

  7. Lex Drennan
    Posted December 5, 2013 at 5:23 am | Permalink

    Thank you for these images – really helpful.

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