New grant to increase sustainable seafood production and consumption

Beijer Institute researcher Max Troell and colleagues have been granted SEK 10 million in funding by the Swedish research council Formas for research on how to sustainably increase production and consumption of seafood in Sweden.

Healthy, but what about sustainable?

Producing healthy food for a growing world population without increasing the pressure on the planet’s ecosystems is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Seafood could play an increasingly important role for global food supply since it is both healthy and comparatively resource efficient to produce.  At the same time, capture fisheries and aquaculture production can cause harm to the environment, for example from the use of damaging fishing gear or by overuse of antibiotics in fish farms. 

“These are problems that need to be addressed if the seafood sector is to reach its full potential,” says project leader Max Troell. “Within this new project we aim to investigate environmental performance of some innovative Swedish aquaculture methods, for instance farms that integrate aquaculture and agriculture, growing their own fish feed and using byproducts from the aquaculture on the fields.  Or closed recirculating systems where the seafood is grown on tanks on land. We will quantify impacts such as greenhouse gas emission, nutrient emission, acidification and land-use, ” Troell explains. Project partners in Gothenburg and Canada will also study fishing practices aimed to minimize bycatch.

How to change habits

Moreover, the interdisciplinary team of researchers will look at what drives or hinders people to eat more sustainable and healthy seafood. With experimental behavioral studies they will explore what makes customers choose sustainable alternatives and they will also study what role eco-certification, such as MSC, ASC and similar labels, as well as other policy measures play.

Knowledge that can stimulate change

The project named SEACHANGE is teaming up with public and private partners to maximize value for society and the findings will be used to improve existing sea food guides (WWF) aimed at consumers, retailers and producers. Although this project have a Swedish focus, a broader impact can be foreseen:

“Increased knowledge on effective mechanisms in improving the environmental performance of fisheries and aquaculture will be of great importance for stimulating change, both in Sweden and globally,” concludes team project member Patrik Henriksson, Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Beijer Institute.

Project members: Beijer, SRC SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, Uppsala University, Sweden, Dalhousie University, Canada, Århus University, Denmark
Project collaborators:  WWF, EAT, Vegafish, Gårdsfisk, Nofima, Krav, Livsmedelsverket, ICA.

Clues for tipping from vicious to virtuous behaviour identified

A new analysis shows that social norms can cross tipping points faster if new behaviour is difficult for others to ignore. The results have implications for policy design to protect the environment and reduce pollution, for example. 
Group behaviour in societies tends to change slowly, sometimes over many generations, even when our habits are killing us. If your friends, family and colleagues smoke, the chances are higher that you smoke too. 
In the journal Science a team of economists, psychologists and ecologists analysed unexpected and rapid changes in social norms that buck this trend. These include rapid changes in average family size, smoking indoors, foot binding in China, or littering the streets. Unravelling the causes of such tipping points might help find solutions for some of the world’s biggest challenges, for example, climate change, biodiversity loss and gender equality.
Lead author and chair of the Beijer board, Karine Nyborg from the University of Oslo says, “Humans are social animals and we have good reasons to coordinate our behaviour with others. But social norms can create vicious and virtuous cycles.”
The interdisciplinary group of authors, who met at the annual Askö meeting 2015, organized by the Beijer Institute, applied the concept of tipping-points to how groups conform to one behaviour, then shift rapidly to a new norm. 
 “Indoor smoking and foot-binding are examples of vicious cycles. If everyone prefers to behave like others, for social, economic, political or practical reasons, our expectations could be self-fulfilling and the result can be harmful to society as a whole. Virtuous cycles behave in the same way, promoting good habits and healthy lifestyles," says co-author Therese Lindahl, Beijer Institute economist.
 Anti-smoking laws in Norway, Sweden, the UK and elsewhere helped trigger a change in social norms almost overnight, say the authors. Although formal enforcement was limited, smokers began expecting social sanctions and started to go outside to smoke, even in unregulated areas like private homes. 
“Very soon smoking indoors became a social taboo,” says Nyborg. If the smoking ban were removed, the new norm would in all likelihood remain. But the paper points out that Greece’s smoking ban, introduced in 2010, failed, possibly due to people’s low expectations that the new rules would affect social disapproval of indoors smoking. 
“Virtuous and virtuous cycles arise when, taking all factors into account, individuals tend to want to behave like most others”, the authors say
If a behaviour is easy for neighbours, friends, family and colleagues to observe, social approval and disapproval can sometimes sustain socially beneficial behaviours. The researchers use kerbside recycling as an example. Harmful pollution such as carbon dioxide, whether individual or from companies, is largely invisible. Similarly it is difficult to know if others are misusing antibiotics. If behaviour is out of sight, it is less likely to be affected by social approval and disapproval.
“A potentially powerful role of policy is to provide reasons for people to change their expectations about the behaviour of others,” they conclude. 
Reference: Nyborg, K., Anderies, J. M., Dannenberg, A., Lindahl, T., Schill, C., Schlüter, M., W. N. Adger, K. J. Arrow, S. Barrett, S. Carpenter, F. S. Chapin III, A-S. Crépin, G. Daily, P. Ehrlich, C. Folke, W. Jager, N. Kautsky, S. A. Levin, O. J. Madsen, S. Polasky, M. Scheffer, B. Walker, E. U. Weber, J. Wilen, A. Xepapadeas, A. de Zeeuw (2016).  Social norms as Solutions. Science Vol. 354, Issue 6308, pp. 42-43 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf8317



EAT-Lancet commission - new solutions for our global food system

Obesity rates are rising in nearly every country in the world and one in three people on Earth suffers from some form of malnutrition. Overconsumption of unhealthy food is increasing, at the expense of human health and the resilience of ecosystems.

To address this, a new EAT-Lancet commission has been launched to tackle the global food system’s role in malnutrition and global change. The commission will investigate the connections between diet, human health and the state of the planet to provide a basis for new evidence-based policies. This global assessment, due for completion in 2017, will be the first systematic analysis of the global food system and will help policy makers by providing a roadmap for how transformation of the food system can help in attaining the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and meeting the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The EAT-Lancet Commission, which consists of 20 world-renowned scientists, was launched in Stockholm on 11-12 June prior to the 2016 EAT Stockholm Food Forum. It is co-chaired by Professor Johan Rockström, SRC (and Professor Walter Willet, Harvard School of Public Health. Beijer researchers Therese Lindahl and Max Troell belong to the team of supporting co-authors.

Read more here

Beijer Institute Carl Folke praised for outstanding achievments for the environment.

Professor Carl Folke has been awarded the Planet and Humanity Medal, the International Geographical Union's (IGU) most prestigious award, which is given to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to environmental issues. Previous recipients have included Al Gore, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Michail Gorbachev and Nelson Mandela. 

Professor Carl Folke, who is also science director at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, was recognised for his "outstanding contribution to science and action on the resilience of humanity and the planet".  The IGU Honours and Awards Committee said: "Through his committed engagement to transdisciplinary research, he has been a pioneer on understanding resilience as progress that serves the betterment of humanity."

Furthermore Carl Folke was celebrated for his scientific insight, compassion, humour, and optimism, and for fostering greater trust between science and society.

"He has mentored and acted as a role model for peers and students, demonstrating every day and in diverse ways how science can be a powerful means for reconnecting humanity to the biosphere," the awards committee said.

Carl Folke is a professor in natural resource management and one of the world's most cited scientists. In his research, he seeks a deeper understanding of the interaction between ecological systems and social and economic development, which can help us identify pathwaus towards a sustainable future for humanity. At the Beijer Institute and the Stockholm Resilience Centre, he has led transdisciplinary researchprogrammes where the interactionshave been studied and described with theoretical models and concepts such as natural capital, ecosystem services and ecological footprint. The results have been used in UN documents, EU decisions and the national measures in different countries, but also at the local level in municipalities and companies.

The medal is awarded by the IGU Secretary General Professor Michael Meadows at a ceremony at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Tuesday, 25 October.

Read Swedish press release here

Download pictures from the award ceremony here (available from 26 October)

Previous recipients of the International Geographical Union Planet and Humanity Medal

•Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norway, 1996
•Al Gore, USA, 1996
•C. Pierret, France, 2000
•M. Robinson, Ireland, 2000
•M. S. Swaminathan, India, 2000
•N. R. Mandela, South Africa, 2002
•M. Gorbachev, Russia, 2004
•Martti Ahtisaari, Finland, 2010
•Lester R. Brown, USA, 2012

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.