As applied to ecological systems, the adaptive capacity is determined by:
- genetic diversity of species
- biodiversity of particular ecosystems
- heterogeneous ecosystem mosaics as applied to specific landscapes or biome regions.
As applied to human social systems, the adaptive capacity is determined by:
- the ability of institutions and networks to learn, and store knowledge and experience.
- creative flexibility in decision making and problem solving
- the existence of power structures that are responsive and consider the needs of all stakeholders.