Call for Sweden to take the lead for sustainable seafood

In an article in Sweden’s major morning news paper the Beijer Institute researchers Max Troell and Patrik Henriksson together with colleagues from other research institutions present arguments for seafood’s potential as a nutritious and sustainable food alternative, especially if it replaces meat. Its success, however, is dependent on a move towards better fisheries management and more sustainable aquaculture production, promoting cultivation of species that do not require any feed (such as mussels, algae) or towards herbivorous species (eg tilapia, carp). The authors urge Swedish authorities to take action to enable this.
Read article here
Of the wild fish that is landed by Swedish fishermen 60% goes to the production of feed, the rest goes to the process industry where less than half becomes human food, while the byproducts are destined mainly for mink feed. Thus, only a fifth of the wild caught fish ends up on our plates. Moreover, around 80% of the seafood consumed within the EU is imported.
The authors write that an increased domestic production in Sweden would be positive in several ways: it could provide new jobs, stable access to healthy and sustainably produced food, and it could also strengthen the traceability and the link between producers and consumers. They suggest the creation of a new label, “Swedish seafood”, that would guarantee lenient fishing methods, scientifically grounded fishing quotas as well as environmentally and climate-friendly farming methods. For this to happen Swedish authorities and businesses concerned need to cooperate and the team of researchers point the way forward by several concrete points of advice, for instance to simplify regulations and support innovative aquaculture producers.
Photo (home page): Joongi Kim/Flickr

Fish matters - but how ?

That fish is important for many poor is a statement that few would question. Within the developing community fish is generally upheld as important for both food security and poverty reduction in many countries around the world. But on what research is this narrative based and what is the scientific quality and consistency of supporting literature?

A recent study published in World Development set out to evaluate the existing evidence of how and to what extent capture fisheries and aquaculture contribute to improving nutrition, food security, and economic growth. This review is co-authored by Beijer Institute researcher Max Troell, together with an international team of scientists led by Chris Béné at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT/CGIAR). It aims to assess the scientific quality and consistency of existing literature focusing on fisheries link to food security and poverty, as well as identifying and discussing inconsistencies. The study covered 202 academic research documents from the period 2003- 2014 with a focus on low and middle income countries.

Missing pieces in the picture
Overall the review identified quite a notable variation in terms of scientific quality and methodological rigour through the 202 studies.

“There is no doubt that fisheries can contribute to nutrition and food security, but the links between capture fisheries/aquaculture and poverty alleviation are complex and still to some extent unclear” - says Max Troell.

The analysis showed that national and household level studies on fisheries’ contributions to poverty alleviation lack good conceptual models and produce inconsistent results. For aquaculture this was different as national and household studies focused mainly on export value chains and used diverse approaches.
Some degree of poverty alleviation and possibly other positive outcomes for fish farmers was identified, but these outcomes depended to a large extent on the specific farming on whether the aquaculture practices had come from within communities or as a result of development assistance interventions.

“Importantly the evaluation reveals that evidence-based research and policy narratives are often disconnected” says lead author Chris Béné who further points out that this may lead to questionable policy recommendations.

Six steps to success
The study identified six key knowledge gaps for policy-makers, practitioners and researchers:
1. Key components of capture fisheries and aquaculture are often not accounted for or miscounted in national statistics. Few socio-economic studies have looked at the impact of fisheries or aquaculture on low-income households.
2. Gender relations as well as health and safety need to be addressed in the fisheries sector. Women are often under-represented in statistics, and health and safety issues are often neglected.
3. Poverty is not clearly conceptualised, articulated or measured in fisheries and aquaculture studies. For example recognition is needed that addressing fisheries management issues in developing countries is not the same as addressing the issue per se.
4. For aquaculture many questions remain concerning who benefits and at what cost to whom. The causal effect between aquaculture development, food security and poverty alleviation is not necessarily a straightforward one.
5. Problems persist in the area of nutrition and determining the impact of fish availability on micronutrient status and other measurables.
6. There is an urgent need for more studies to explore the local-level impacts of global drivers of food security such as urbanisation and climate change. For example, lack of reliable data on small-scale fisheries risk complicating the uncertainty induced by climate change on the dynamics of fish stocks.

Request paper from author

Reference: : Béné, C., R. Arthur, H. Norbury, E. H. Allison, M.C.M Beveridge, S. Bush, L. Campling, W. Leschen, D. Little, D. Squires, S. Thilsted, M. Troell; M. Williams (2016). Contribution of Fisheries and Aquaculture to Food Security and Poverty Reduction: Assessing the Current Evidence. World Development, 79: 177-196. 


Valuing and Designing Payment Systems for Ecosystem Services

A short course held in conjunction with EAERE 2016 June 21-22, 2016, in Zurich, Switzerland

Course description
Payment systems for ecosystem services (PES) have expanded rapidly in the decade since the publication of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Most PES systems pertain to regulating services, and they aim to create incentives to conserve ecosystems that are presumed to supply such services. Examples include watershed payment programs that are intended to improve water quality or reduce floods and droughts by conserving forests in upland regions. Despite the increasing popularity of PES systems, the value of the services that these systems actually supply in practice remains poorly understood, and the design of the systems faces a number of economic challenges that can impede their effectiveness. 

This two-day course will cover both of these issues: the valuation of regulating ecosystem services, and the design of PES systems to supply those services. It will involve a mix of lectures and interactive exercises. The valuation sessions will include hands-on econometric exercises that use the statistical package Stata. The sessions on PES design will include group discussions and presentations. The primary instructors in the course are: Prof Nick Hanley (University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK) and Prof. Jeffrey R. Vincent (Duke University, North Carolina, USA)

Venue and target audience
The course will be held at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH), immediately before the 2016 Annual Conference of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists ( Its target audience is researchers, policy analysts, and policy makers from developing countries who have received their PhD within the past 5-10 years. Researchers who work on policy-relevant issues, and policy analysts and policy makers with research backgrounds who wish to learn advanced theory and methods related to economic aspects of ecosystem services, are especially welcome to apply. If space allows, then advanced PhD students and researchers holding MSc degrees will also be considered.
A limited number of scholarships is offered, which will cover roundtrip airfare, lodging during the course and the Conference, and a reduced registration fee for the Conference. 
For more information and how to apply click here.

Seminar: People and Sulfur: The Forgotten Element Cycle

Tuesday 24 November 2015, 13.00-16.30, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

The carbon cycle has taken centre stage as a global element cycle in the run-up to the Paris climate conference and beyond. Even the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles get plenty of attention in their role as critical elements for food production, as well as pollutants that can eutrophy freshwater systems and the coastal zone. But in many ways, the global sulfur cycle is just as important.

It was at the centre of the acid rain problem that afflicted Europe and eastern North America a few decades ago. For many years, sulfur compounds have been central to the role of aerosols in local and regional air pollution, most notably as a feature that threatens the stability of South Asian monsoon system and that drives health impacts through urban air pollution.

But the sulfur cycle is also crucial in the functioning of terrestrial and marine ecosystems. In fact, one of the key feed-back mechanisms that operates in the global climate system, involving marine microorganisms and clouds, could be coupled to the sulfur cycle.This seminar explores the global sulfur cycle and its complex relationship with people with 2015 Volvo Environment Prize laureate Professor Henning Rodhe and colleagues.

Henning Rodhe is Professor of Chemical Meteorology at Stockholm University. His pioneering work explains how gases and particles are transported and deposited and how they affect climate, ecosystems and human health. Henning Rodhe’s research can be described to some extent as detective work, combining data collection with scientific theories and fieldwork. He has demonstrated that long-range transportation, as for mercury and radioactive fallout, is more widespread than previously believed. The atmosphere can carry particles a very long way, and the fallout and environmental problems can occur where not expected.

See videos:

Human Interactions with the Sulfur CycleProfessor Henning Rodhe, Stockholm University, Sweden (Introduction Will Steffen)

Sulfur Pollution in Europe, Senior Advisor Peringe Grennfelt, IVL, Swedish Environmental Research Institute

Impact of Aerosol Pollution in East Asia on Climate, Professor Deliang Chen, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Nitrogen and Sulfur Cycles in Terrestrial Systems in Southern Africa, Professor Mary Scholes, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

The Sulfur Cycle in Marine Ecosystems, Professor Caroline Leck, Stockholm University, Sweden

The Sulfur Cycle and Climate Change: Outlook to the Future, Panel discussion moderated by Professor Will Steffen, Climate Change Institute, Australian National University

For detailed program download invitation


A new landscape of global crises

In the past crises were often local and isolated. They left surrounding ecosystems and societies largely unaffected. This made aid and governance work easier. Today, crises are becoming more global in reach affecting more people and systems at the same time.

In a recent study in Ecology and Society a framework is proposed to identify the causes, processes and outcomes of multiple interconnected crises, which the authors term "synchronous failure”. The study was led by Thomas Homer-Dixon and Brian Walker and the authors team include Beijer researchers Anne-Sophie Crépin, Carl Folke and Max Troll, as well as several colleagues from the Stockholm Resilience  Centre.

The framework shows how several stressors together can cause a crisis which can rapidly spread to become global in reach.
The framework could be used as an initial guide for systematic analyses and identifying early-warning signals and measures for building social-ecological resilience. It can also support establishment of appropriate governance structures that can navigate the danger of synchronous failure.

Causes of crises
The authors argue that future crises will increasingly result from three long-term global trends: the dramatic increase in human economic activity in relation to Earth’s environment, the rapidly increasing connections across the globe, and the decreasing diversity of human cultures, institutions, practices and technologies.
These three trends create several stresses and reduce the capacity of systems to deal with disturbances. Case studies from the 2008 financial-energy and food-energy crises illustrate this.

Three processes at play
The authors identify three processes that occur in such a crisis, often simultaneously and reinforcing each other.
The first is the long fuse big bang where slow burning stresses suddenly reach a tipping point. The straw that broke the camel’s back is not a steadily increased pressure with proportional response throughout but rather a sudden shift.
The second process, simultaneous stresses, emphasizes that many stresses can act on a system simultaneously, for example drought, poverty and social conflict. The relationships and the combined effect of them are important to understand in order to predict their effect and outcome.
The third type called ramifying cascade occurs when sudden and severe disturbances spread through tightly connected networks.

"The future wellbeing of humankind depends on functioning energy, food, water, climate and financial systems. It is increasingly clear how tightly these systems are connected," says Carl Folke.

"We encourage further research on how energy, food, water, climate and financial systems are connected. This type of knowledge is important to understand our capacity to sustain these systems and learn how to deal with crises in the future.”

Read more

Full article

Homer-Dixon, T., B. Walker, R. Biggs, A.-S. Crépin, C. Folke, E. F. Lambin, G. D. Peterson, J. Rockström, M. Scheffer, W. Steffen, and M. Troell. 2015. Synchronous failure: the emerging causal architecture of global crisis. Ecology and Society 20(3): 6.

Managing ecosystems for predictable outcomes may backfire

When it comes to ecosystem goods and services, we humans tend to want to know what we are going to get. Therefore, we try to manage the use of our ecosystems in ways that minimizes their variability. 
But a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes that managing ecosystems for predictable outcomes is risky. In fact, more often than not, it backfires.
Co-author and Beijer Institute director Carl Folke explains: "Command-and-control management of ecosystems might make flows of ecosystem services predictable in the short term, but unpredictable and less resilient in the long term."
The pathology of short-term thinking
At the heart of the problem is the fact that while we can reduce variability in the short frame, variability doesn’t go away, it just goes somewhere else. Take for example our attempts at flood control on rivers.
By installing levees, engineers are able to constrain flow and curb the fluctuations in water levels that once led to routine flooding of low-lying areas. These levees work so well that whole communities now exist in what were once floodplains. But, of course, the levees cannot remove all variability from the system. Sometimes a levee breaks or a river reaches levels higher than what the levee was built to withstand. The end result is a flood that is much more destructive than before.
Lead author Steve Carpenter, Beijer Fellow and director of the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison explains: "For many years the river stays in the levee and everything is fine. However, every once in a while, it goes out and everything is worse."
Losing control
Folke, Carpenter and their colleagues ran a series of computer models looking at three human endeavors – controlling nutrient pollution in lakes, maintaining cattle production on rangelands invaded by shrubs, and sustaining harvest in a fishery.
In all cases, when they tried to control variance, for instance by tightly controlling fish harvest or shrubs in grasslands, unexpected outcomes occurred. Fish stocks collapsed at lower harvest levels. Grasslands were replaced by shrubs with even light pressure from cattle grazing.
Steve Carpenter says that living systems "need a certain amount of stress" noting that "as they evolved they continually got calibrated against variability."
"Just as our immune systems rely on exposure to bacteria and viruses to sharpen their skills at responding to disease, natural systems also need that kind of stimulation.” 
This does not mean we shouldn not try to manage our ecosystems responsibly and sustainably, it just means that we may need to redefine acceptable levels of change and variability.
Carl Folke concludes that we need more adaptive approaches that allow for greater natural variability in social-ecological systems and encourage a diverse set of management approaches: "By exploring what does and doesn’t not work resource managers can better learn how to sustain ecosystems as they change over time”, says Folke.

2016 Mäler Scholarship in Environmental Economics

The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics  is pleased to announce a new round of the Mäler Scholar competition. 
The institute created the Mäler Scholarship in 2009, in honor of Professor Karl-Göran Mäler’s long-standing contributions to environmental economics around the world. The scholarship is intended for early-career researchers in environmental economics from developing regions of the world who already have a PhD or are currently enrolled in a PhD program and will finish within 1-2 years. Preference is given to researchers affiliated with four regional environmental economics networks—CEEPA, EEPSEA, LACEEP, and SANDEE—and the EfD centers. Others are welcome to apply. For information on past recipients, click here.
The scholarship allows researchers to spend up to 6 months at the institute developing new projects in collaboration with Beijer researchers.  The research focus of the applicant during the stay should relate closely to at least one of the Beijer Institute’s research programs. We particularly encourage applicants willing to use empirical methods to study and quantify linkages between ecosystem dynamics like regime shifts and economics in their home countries.
The institute is now accepting applications from researchers who are interested in spending up to 6 months at the institute during January 2016– June 2016 or August 2016 – December 2016. Deadline is 30 October.
Information on how to apply is found here

Nudges: The new black in environmental policy?

Nudging – a collection of behaviour change techniques – is increasingly attracting the interest of researchers, policy makers and the media. However, despite all this attention, it is not particularly clear to many what exactly nudging is, what it is not and why nudges can (sometimes) be so effective in changing our behaviour. To make the issues clearer, Therese Lindahl and Britt Stikvoort wrote a report exploring them.
The report was written for the Swedish think tank Fores and was launched in June 2015. It sought to answer the following questions: Are there enough sound scientific grounds for nudging today on which policy makers can base their policies? What really is the current state of the art in nudging research, what lessons can we learn from these past experiences and what are the biggest caveats in our current knowledge about nudging?
The report was presented by Therese Lindahl and discussed by a panel that included Per Bolund, Minister of Financial Markets and Consumer Affairs, during the Swedish policy week in Almedalen, Visby in July 2015. Since then it has received a lot of attention from policy makers and the media
Download the report in Swedish and English

Keystone actors shape marine ecosystems

Only 13 corporations control 19-40% of the largest and most valuable stocks and 11-16 % of the global marine catch, according to new research published in the journal PLOS ONE, authored by researchers at the Beijer Institute, GEDB and Stockholm Resilience Centre. These "keystone" corporations of the global seafood industry critically shape the future of marine ecosystems.
The new study makes an analogy between the largest companies in seafood industry and keystone species in ecological communities. Keystone species in nature have a profound effect on the structure and function of the ecosystem and disproportionately determine the prevalence and activities of other species.
"The phenomenon of keystone actors is an increasingly important feature of our human-dominated world. Active leadership in sustainability initiatives by these corporations could result in a cascade through the entire seafood industry towards improved management of marine living resources and ecosystems," says lead author Henrik Österblom, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
"Increasing demand for seafood has contributed to a global fisheries crisis, with consequences for marine ecosystems around the world," Österblom adds. Existing analyses of global fisheries operations have, however, so far largely focused on the role of countries, rather than industry corporations.
A handful of dominating corporations
The study found that the average annual revenues of the 160 largest companies in 2012 exhibit a distinct keystone pattern, where the top 10% account for 38 % of total revenues. Among these, the authors analysed thirteen companies more in detail and found that they shape very large marine ecosystems around the world and are involved in both wild capture fisheries and aquaculture, including whitefish, tuna, salmon, shellfish, fishmeal, fish oil, and aqua feeds. Their combined annual revenues correspond to 18% of the global value of seafood production in 2012 (US$ 252 billion). This handful of corporations, represent only 0.5% of 2250 registered fishing and aquaculture companies worldwide.
Such keystone actors among corporations, the authors say, can be defined by the following characteristics: a) they dominate global production revenues and volumes within a particular sector, b) control globally relevant segments of production, c) connect ecosystems globally through subsidiaries, and d) influence global governance processes and institutions.
"Several of the fishing companies we investigated are larger than most nations in terms of their share of global catches. Our study reframes the responsibility for fishing in terms of transnational corporations, illustrating that they must be included into the equation if we are to solve the global sustainability crisis in marine ecosystems,” says co-author Jean-Baptiste Jouffray, Phd-student affiliated to all three institutions.
Österblom, H., Jouffray, J-B., Folke, C., Crona, B., Troell, M., Merrie, A., and Rockström, J. 2015. Transnational corporations as ‘keystone actors’ in marine ecosystems. PLOS ONE,

Beijer Institute research visualised in art-science exhibition

Pressrelease 2015-04-14

”The biosphere is the thin outer layer of this planet in which life exists. We humans are part of the biosphere and completely dependent on the air, the oceans, the forests and all other ecological systems in order to survive and thrive.” So begins the text interpreted by artist Jesper Waldersten in the exhibition Patterns of the Biosphere at the classical Swedish design company Svenskt Tenn. It is also the exhibition's overarching message and the basis for all research at the Beijer Institute.

-Regardless of whether one likes nature or not, we are all totally dependent on the biosphere for our own welfare, says Carl Folke, Director of the Beijer Institute. Environmental concern is today seen by many as an obstacle to development, but the conflict between economic development and ecological sustainability is really just a mental construct.

The Swedish interior design company Svenskt Tenn's profit goes via the Kjell and Märta Beijer Foundation to the support of research conducted at the Beijer Institute. In an exhibition opening 15 April, the institute’s research on the interaction between man and the biosphere is visualised. 

“Virtually all human activity has effects on the biosphere one way or the other. We want to help widen this knowledge and its importance for our future and the future of the planet, and also clarify the fact that all Svenskt Tenn's customers are contributing to important research in this field,” says Maria Veerasamy, CEO of Svenskt Tenn. 


Research at the Beijer Institute include developing new models of thinking and a terminology suited to our times. The Institute has been part of introducing and establishing the concepts "natural capital", "ecosystem services" and "ecological footprint". The results of the Institute's research are being picked up and put into practice at different levels throughout the world, for example in UN documents, EU decisions and national measures in different countries, but also at the local level in municipalities and companies.

A new approach to nature, the biosphere we live in, is the key to a more sustainable society. One way to accomplish this is to explain the world from a transdisciplinary holistic approach, applied by the Beijer Institute.

- Previously, both science and policy focused on one thing at a time. It is only now we begin to grasp the whole picture and understand the scale of the challenges. No place on Earth is unaffected by man and there is no human being that does not depend on the biosphere, says Carl Folke. He continues:

- The meeting between art and science makes it possible to reach people on a more emotional level than scientists normally have access to. We are very happy to have the opportunity to create this exhibition in collaboration with Svenskt Tenn and that it can be displayed in this unique environment.

The exhibition is free of charge and runs from April 15 through to June 15, 2015 in the Svenskt Tenn store in Stockholm.

Read more in the exhibition broschure: English Swedish

For more information, contact

Agneta Sundin, communication officer, the Beijer Institute +46 8-673 95 38 or,

Vicky Nordh, Marketing Assistant, Svenskt Tenn: +46 8-670 16 23 or

Thommy Bindefeld, Marketing Director, Svenskt Tenn: +46 8 670 16 02 or