Film launch on Urban Green Commons

A new film series has been launched picturing the growing movement of urban gardening.

During the last three years Beijer Institute researcher Johan Colding and his research colleagues from Stockholm Resilience Centre and Royal Technical College (KTH) collaborated with the filmmakers Seven Frames Production to document a number of urban farming projects in both Berlin and Stockholm, as part of a research project.
The film series is called Urban Green Commons: Berlin-Stockholm and draws ultimately on the notion that common property initiatives can offer important alternatives to privatization of land in cities. The film series consists of four films that each deals with different aspects of urban gardening and farming.

"It has been truly fascinating to see what can happen when local residents themselves get a chance to dig into the soil, work with their hands, and together with others get the opportunity to take care of and manage green areas in cities," says Pehr Arte, one of the film makers.

Common spaces with different purposes                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       These urban gardens have been created by citizens often on what was old waste land, such as an abandoned train track in Stockholm, but they vary in management form and theme. In Stockholm one of the gardens "Folkodlarna i Kärrtorp" focus on spreading knowledge of organic gardening and producing local food. Meanwhile, the "Ökogarten Bushgraben" in Berlin is more spritually oriented  and aim with its activities to be restorative for persons that are mentally fatigue or disabled.

The gardens are examples of what Johan Colding and his colleagues have labelled "Urban Green Commons", green city spaces that are collectively organized and managed by the residents themselves. They represent a particular type of property right systems, which are different from those that are in the hands of private actors or the state and local governments.

"There is an increasing scientific interest in urban gardening and urban common property systems. The film series supports and complements several findings from the scientific literature," explains Johan Colding.

Science and film combined in project
Much of the new insights featured in the films have been derived from  scientific studies on Urban Green Commons and similar gardening projects in cities and the films are part of the research project SUPER (Sustainable Urban Planning for Ecosystem services and Resilience). This project intends to develop knowledge on how urban planning processes can better integrate ecosystem services to nurture local resilience building in urban landscapes. It also strives to lay a foundation for social innovations about inclusive forms of ecosystem stewardship, something that both the film-makers and the researchers have found to be vital for transitions into more sustainable cities.

"In the long-term, we in the SUPER project hope to be able to generate new knowledge and innovations of immediate concern to urban residents, policy makers, and urban planners," says Johan Colding.

The films have been produced by Seven Frames with the support of Formas (Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning) and the Beijer Institute/Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Johan Colding is responsible for the original idea and has been the scientific project manager.

See the films and read more about the project here


Hawaiian reefs through the resilience lens

With the world’s coral reefs endangered by various threats such as global warming, ocean acidification, overfishing and pollution, there is an urgent need to anticipate and prevent further losses of coral and to reverse shifts in already degraded reefs. Such challenges require a better understanding of the resilience of these complex reef systems and of the human and natural factors threatening them.
This is the conclusion of a new study in Philosophical Transactions special issue, by Jean-Baptiste Jouffray, PhD student with the Beijer Institute and the Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere (GEDB) Programme at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, also associated with the Stockholm Resilience Centre. 
Novel approach reveals the picture
Using one of the most comprehensive coral reef datasets available, Jean-Baptiste Jouffray and colleagues developed a new methodology for detecting, visualising and defining multiple reef regimes across 302 sites in the Hawaiian archipelago. The paper is part of a special issue on marine regime shifts around the world and offers a promising avenue to use this novel approach for analysing other ecosystems too.
“While previous scientific debate has largely been centred around the shift between coral-dominated reefs and the undesired large fleshy algae-dominated reefs, we were surprised to find that over half of the reefs studied in Hawaii belong to a third state dominated by turf algae”, explains Jean-Baptiste Jouffray, lead author of the new study. 
Turf algae are communities of smaller and more delicate algae that belong to a large number of different species. This raises the question whether turf-dominated reefs are stable or transitional states moving towards macroalgae dominance, or conversely towards coral recovery. Time-series data showing changes in the reefs over a period of time will be required to investigate the question further.
Like fish, like reef
Higher numbers of herbivorous (algae-eating) fish proved to be the strongest indicator of reef state throughout the Hawaiian Islands. The greater the number of herbivorous fish found at a study site, the healthier the coral and the smaller the algal presence. However, deeper analysis of the fish distribution data revealed that type of herbivore is also important.
”For management purposes, it is not enough to consider herbivores as a group, since different functional groups with specific feeding behaviour may lead to different reef states. This opens up an avenue for more refined and efficient management of reefs”, says Albert Norström, Stockholm Resilience Centre
Coral reef herbivorous fish can be categorised into three groups: grazers, scrapers and browsers. The grazers crop on algal turf, preventing the establishment and growth of larger fleshy macroalgae. Scrapers also feed on turf, but they remove some components of the reef substratum, providing bare areas for coral recruitment. Finally, browsers consistently feed on macroalgae and may play a crucial role in reversing macroalgae-dominated states.

But people matter too

Avoiding regime shifts in coral reefs is important because coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems on earth and harbour approximately 25% of all marine species. They provide a wide range of ecosystem goods and services that are crucial for economic and societal development, such as food, coastal protection and income from tourism.

Further, the new study found that sewage and other effluents from human settlements proved to be the second greatest factor in reef decline in Hawaii, confirming findings elsewhere.
“These results highlight once again the need to reduce pollution run-off from human activities on land, in order to safe-guard the many ecosystem services generated by coral reefs”, concludes Jean-Baptiste Jouffray
The new study is based on a collaboration with researchers from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Conservation International-Hawaii. 
Jouffray J-B, Nyström M,Norström AV, Williams ID, Wedding LM,Kittinger JN, Williams GJ. 2015 Identifying
multiple coral reef regimes and their drivers across the Hawaiian archipelago. Phil.Trans. R. Soc. B 370: 20130268.


Special issue: "Marine regime shifts around the globe: theory, drivers, and impacts

What do the Baltic Sea, Hawaiian coral reefs, and kelp forests have in common? All are marine systems that are susceptible to so-called regime shifts. These shifts are large and persistent (and often abrupt) changes in ecosystem structure and function. Often, they are associated with impacts on economies and well-being, due to for example fisheries declines, loss of tourism revenue, or the loss of resilience to climate change. Better understanding of regime shifts is important as they tend to be difficult to anticipate and costly to reverse.
"Understanding the social-ecological interactions behind regime shifts, and how to avoid them, will be key to maintaining healthy oceans and benefits they provide to communities around the world," says Beijer Director Carl Folke, co-editor of  November 24 special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society—Biological Sciences. 
Small impact, big change
The special issue, entitled "Marine regime shifts around the globe: theory, drivers, and impacts", features more than 80 authors from different disciplines, across 6 continents. Altogether, the issue includes nearly 20 studies that explore the science behind regime shifts in ocean ecosystems worldwide, and how they can be managed.
Regime shifts are addressed from the different perspectives of theory, ecosystem observations, modelling and management. The articles featured in the special issue clearly tells us that there are regime shifts for many marine ecosystems, and that even small increases in human stressors can lead to abrupt major changes in their status. 
Sovjet Union and global seafood exploitation
Henrik Österblom, Stockholm Resilience Centre and Carl Folke contribute with a paper entitled "Globalization, marine regime shifts and the Soviet Union". In it they analyse fishing activities of the Soviet Union in relation to all large marine ecosystems of the world from 1950 until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. They found that one single actor could have a disproportionately large effect on global fisheries, pushing exploitation to new levels. Soviet fishing activities were coordinated through a system of central planning. Global synchronicity can thus also result from human activities, and not just global patterns of climate. Interestingly, Soviet fishing also contributed to triggering regional and global governance responses for improved management.
"The Soviet Union has been one of the largest actors ever in global seafood exploitation and pioneered the global expansion of fishing activities at an unprecedented scale. They were the fore-runners of the globalization of fishing activities that we are observing today," Henrik Österblom explains.
Conversi, A., Möllman, C. Folke, C., Edwards, M., (editors). 2014. Marine regime shifts around the globe: theory, drivers and impacts. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society - Biological Sciences 370(1659)

Three keys to succesful Sustainable Development Goals

As the work progresses in developing the set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that are to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in 2015, researchers voice their concerns of how to produce goals that are achievable while corresponding to a desired future scenario for human and environmental development.
Three necesary conditions
An article in Ecology and Society presents three necessary conditions for establishing effective SDGs. The article is a joint effort by the Beijer Young Scholars group, an international network of early-career researchers initiated by the Beijer Institute to stimulate the emergence of new research pathways and new ways of cooperating across disciplines for the global challenges facing humanity. Lead author was  Albert Norström, Stockholm Resilience Centre. 
"While the Millennium Development Goals focused mainly on alleviating poverty in developing countries, the Sustainable Development Goals need to have all nations on board," says Norström. 
"This means that the process of developing the new goals needs to be based on an inclusive and broad analysis of what we want to achieve by putting the goals in place, and that it needs to allow for actors from science and the rest of society to meet and discuss."
Parts of a whole
As a first condition the authors argue that the SDGs need to embrace the concept of social-ecological systems, seeing people and the biosphere as integrated parts of a whole rather than as separate systems.
"Research is showing that humans are a part of and shaping ecosystems from the local to the global scale, and at the same time we are fundamentally dependent on the functioning of these systems", says Maja Schlüter, Stockholm Resilience Centre
"The SDGs should be designed so that they increase the awareness of the connection between functioning ecosystems and for example poverty alleviation and human development."
Finding middle ground
Secondly, the authors argue, the SDG process needs to address and navigate the trade-offs between being ambitious and achievable. The new goals will be composed of moral and political commitments, much like the MDGs, but they will not be legally binding.  This means that there is a need for those setting the goals to be aware of the different constraints, biophysical, social and political, that different nations and peoples face.
It also means that the SDGs need to be set in a way so that they are inspiring rather than deterring. And that they should address issues that can be tackled on different levels in society and government.
"The SDGs should enable actors on different scales in society to feel responsible and motivate them to push for positive change. If the bar is set too high, this will not happen." argue the authors.
Starting with what we know
The third condition for developing effective SDGs is that formulating the goals should be guided by existing knowledge about social change processes on all scales, from global to individual.
"Accounting for existing belief systems and norms at various scales can improve both the design and the implementation of SDGs by shedding light on constraints while also providing opportunities for producing national-scale targets and incentives beneath each goal," says Norström. 
The authors conclude that incorporating these three conditions in the development of the SDGs should increase the likelihood that the goals once formulated are relevant and feasible
Norström, A. V., A. Dannenberg, G. McCarney, M. Milkoreit, F. Diekert, G. Engström, R. Fishman, J. Gars, E. Kyriakopoolou, V. Manoussi, K. Meng, M. Metian, M. Sanctuary, M. Schlüter, M. Schoon, L. Schultz, and M. Sjöstedt. 2014. Three necessary conditions for establishing effective Sustainable Development Goals in the Anthropocene. Ecology and Society 19(3): 8.



Seminar: Global Social-Ecological Connectivity and the Biosphere

See video from the seminar: Click here for part 1  with keynoter speaker Eric Lambin and click here for part two with speakers Henrik Österblom, Emily Boyd and Niki Frantzeskaki. Moderator Victor Galaz.

Globalization is not only increasing the flows of people, ideas, capital and technology at the global scale, but also creating novel and large-scale social-ecological connections. These connections are sometimes denoted "telecoupling"or "nested vulnerabilities", and are gaining increased attention from sustainability scholars. Increased global connectivity can createnew systemic risks at the global level, as experienced during the 2008-2009 global food crisis, and the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa. However, increased connectivity could also act as an engine for diversity, robustness and innovation as social actors tap into its benefits. 

Despite an increased interest in these issues, our understanding of how social-ecological connections emerge, evolve and impact on the biosphere are limited. This seminar explores these issues from multiple perspectives together with the 2014 Volvo Environment Prize winner Eric Lambin (keynote) and speakers Henrik Österblom, Emily Boyd and Niki Frantzeskaki. Moderator Victor Galaz.
Thursday 27 November 2014, 09.00-12.00
The Beijer Hall, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Lilla Frescativägen 4A, Stockholm
The event is free of charge and open to the public but registration is required
Download invitation here
Register here

Reflections on people and the biosphere

Reflections – on People and the Biosphere is a new book by Centre Science Director Carl Folke and legendary designer/art director Lars Hall. The book features insights from 30 years of resilience research together with a set of unique photos from the Stockholm Archipelago during the same time period.
Reconnecting to the biosphere
Using quotes from songs by international artists and insights from his own and others research on social-ecological systems, Carl Folke describes the dynamic relationship between humans and the biosphere in a thought-provoking manner. The images and the text interact with a rhythm, reminding us again and again of the importance of reconnecting our social and economic systems to the biosphere.
"The whole book represents a mind-shift, from treating the planet as an externality to recognizing that we are strongly dependent on a healthy and functioning planet for our own development," explains Carl Folke.
Artistic expression
In a video Carl also describes why he has chosen to work with an artistic expression to communicate scientific insights, and how this perspective can complement the research findings showing that we need to reconnect to nature.
"The photos and the selected musical quotes show very strongly the emotional connection to the biosphere that we all are a part of."
Shifting scenes
The photos are from Lars Hall's personal collection and are a result of him documenting a particular bit of nature in Stockholm’s northern archipelago. From the exact same point on Grillskäret Island, various seasons and times throughout the day have been documented by his camera for 30 years. The result is a unique exposé of nature's shifting scenes – from a peaceful atmosphere to the dramatically menacing.
Lars Hall is legendary within the field of design through his work at Hall&Cederquist during the 1970s and Lars Hall Design AB from 1990 onwards. He has been a key advocate for the photographic image via the gallery Camera Obscura that he established back in the 1970s.
Click here to read more and to see the video where Carl Folke talks about the the relationship between humans and the Biosphere and between science and art.

Beijer Institute board member wins 2014 Volvo Environment Prize

"Eric Lambin has successfully bridged social, geographical and biophysical disciplines in order to advance the global understanding of land use change and what it means for human wellbeing.” 
So goes the jury’s motivation for awarding the prize to the Beijer Institute board member who divides his time between Stanford University in California, and Université Catholique de Louvain in his native Belgium.
Eric Lambin has for decades developed methods of analysing satellite images by linking them to socioeconomic data. By doing that, he and his research colleagues can track land use changes on the impact of trade and demand for biofuels or food crops. His research has focused on trying to bridge two disparate communities – remote sensing scientists and human ecologists.  Using this technique, sometimes called the people-to-pixel approach he has developed knowledge on the transfer of infectious diseases, deforestation, human behaviour, conflict resolution and agricultural practice. 
Read more about the prize and about Eric Lambins research

Zooming in on blue-fin tuna farming

Tuna is one of the top fish commodities in the international seafood trade. The bluefin tuna can attain astonishing high market prices which has led to a dramatic decline in many wild stocks. This has triggered the development of bluefin tuna (BFT) aquaculture as an economic alternative for meeting the growing demand. However, a new study published in the journal Reviews in Fisheries Science & Aquaculture by Beijer researcher Max Troell and colleagues from Stockholm Resilience Centre and Duke University, shows that catching juvenile bluefin tuna and farming (ranching) them on giant farms raises a number of sustainability concerns.

Tuna is a very resource-demanding species to farm and the article sheds light on direct and indirect interactions with wild fish stocks. While most captured bluefin tuna enter the global seafood market directly, an increasing proportion of the live catch is used for aquaculture. As the authors points out, there are confounding uncertainties related to how much wild tuna is being caught for farming in so-called “sea ranches”, what the future trend might be and also uncertainties with respect to statistics for farmed volumes.

"In order to improve the management of BFT, leading countries need to revise their statistics and solve problems with misreporting, underreporting and illegal catches," co-author Max Troell says.

He stresses that this should be a collective effort between the producing countries and international organisations such as FAO. A harmonisation of data will help the scientific stock assessment and facilitate more sustainable quotas. This would have to involve better estimation of fish sizes and weight caught for aquaculture.

Request article

Read more

Metian M., S. Pouil, A. M. Boustany, and M. Troell. 2014. Farming of bluefin tuna – reconsidering global estimates and sustainability concerns. Reviews in Fisheries Science & Aquaculture 22(3):184-192. 

Climate engineering reconsidered

There are several ways to respond to the current climate change crisis. One is to limit combustion of fossil fuels and move towards a renewable energy system, but that has proven to be a slow endeavour.  
Amid this international collaborative impotence, there are increasing calls for ways to engineer our way out of the crisis. One way could be to scatter sunlight through the injection of sulphate particles into the atmosphere. The technique is even mentioned in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2013 Summary for Policymakers. 
Neither effective nor feasible?
In the current issue of Nature Climate Change, an international team of scientists who gathered at the Annual Askö Meeting, organised by the Beijer Institute in September 2013, concluded that this kind of geoengineering is unlikely to be the game-changer some people expect it to be.
“Our main conclusion is that, when the use of geoengineering is politically feasible, the intervention may not be effective; and that, when the use of geoengineering might be effective, its deployment may not be politically feasible,” write the authors, led by Scott Barrett, chairman of the Beijer board.
Simply put, the many problems associated with geoengineering, including its inability to address every climate emergency, the many possible negative environmental side-effects and the geopolitical problems that would be triggered, suggest that the need to address the root causes is as strong as ever. 
“If anything, the prospect of geoengineering should strengthen resolve to tackle climate change by limiting atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases”. 
Helping some, harming others
Injecting sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere to scatter sunlight could very well reduce the temperature in the lower atmosphere in a relatively quick and inexpensive way. It could even be done unilaterally, without the need for international cooperation. This might sound uncomplicated, but that is ironically also one of geoengineering's major problems. While it might limit global warming and help some countries it is likely to harm others, for example by altering the pattern of monsoons. 
“The use of stratospheric aerosols poses a number of huge challenges for governance. Even if 'losers' were to be compensated for their losses, it would be more or less impossible to attribute particular changes to climate engineering rather than to natural variation," the authors write.
Geoengineering would also have a range of environmental side-effects unrelated to the climate. A planet disturbed by both elevated CO2 concentrations and geoengineering would no doubt be very different. The effects on ecosystems would be complex and spatially variable, with implications for food production, freshwater supplies and human health, creating both winners and losers.
The risk of addiction
In the article, the use of geoengineering as a “stop-gap” is also discussed. This would involve deploying stratospheric aerosol injection while more effort is put into reducing emissions. Once concentrations return to 'safe' levels, geoengineering could be scaled back and eventually stopped. If, however, such geoengineering were used over a number of decades, and greenhouse gases concentrations continued to rise, turning geoengineering off abruptly would cause rapid climate change.
“The bigger risk to using geoengineering, we believe, is not that countries will turn it off abruptly but that, having begun to use it, they will continue to use it and may even become addicted to it,” the authors say. 
Barrett, S., T. M. Lenton, A. Millner, A. Tavoni, S. Carpenter, J. M. Anderies, F. S. Chapin III, A.-S. Crépin, G. Daily, P. R. Ehrlich, C. Folke, V. Galaz, T. P. Hughes, N. Kautsky, E. Lambin, R. Naylor, K. Nyborg, S. Polasky, M. Scheffer, J. Wilen, A. Xepapadeas, and A. de Zeeuw. 2014. Climate engineering reconsidered. Nature Climate Change 4:527-529.



Changing Planet: New cluster on global change research

Researchers join forces to strengthen research on global social-ecological connectivity

How is the human enterprise shaping the biosphere and how can we become better stewards of planet Earth? These are some of the fundamental questions that will drive a new research cluster called 'Changing Planet'.

The cluster primarily consists of researchers from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics and the Erling-Persson Family Academy Programme - Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere.

It is researchers from the "global themes" of the three above mentioned organisations that form the new initiative. They are all well-connected and will rely heavily on a network of organisations around the world including the Earth System Governance Project, Resilience Alliance and University of Waterloo in order to advance the research and contribute to positive change for global sustainability.

A pressing need for new perspectives

'Changing Planet' is a response to the increasing need for improved understanding of interactions between people and ecosystems at larger scales.

While previous research has done a great job in mapping and quantifying linkages of many biophysical components at the planetary scale, there is still a poor understanding of social-ecological connectivity at that scale, argue the researchers behind the initiative.

"The pace and extent of global changes means there is a pressing need to develop our understanding of how social processes are interconnected and how they drive and interact with the processes of the biosphere," explains Beatrice Crona, member of the steering group.

Solutions at multiple scales

The new umbrella initiative aims to provide a platform to develop this knowledge, making use of the diverse methodological toolboxes and skillsets of the contributing research programmes and their international partners.

"The research undertaken within 'Changing Planet' will be broadly concerned with understanding how humans affect social and ecological processes, what this may lead to and what possible solutions and transformations can be initiated to improve outcomes in the future," says Anne-Sophie Crépin, also part of the steering group.

The partner organisations have already organised several international workshops about global dynamics. Now, with the launch of the new cluster the work will be strengthened through a range of different activities, including interactive 'learnshops', a kind of workshops designed to create dialogue and learning across academia and business and/or practitioners

Research will also be conducted by postdocs and senior researchers employed or affiliated to each programme.

The cluster's new website includes more details about partners, advisors, funders and ongoing research, as well as publications, videos and blogposts.

Steering group:

Anne-Sophie Crépin, Deputy director and leader of the Global dynamics and resilience programme, the Beijer Institute of Ecological economics

Beatrice Crona, Exevutive director, Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Sara Cornell, Coordinator of the Planetary Boundaries initiative, Stockholm Resilience Centre

Victor Galaz, Theme leader of the Global and cross-scale dynamics theme, Stockholm Resilience Centre