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



Aquaculture and the resilience of global food systems

Does aquaculture add resilience to the world’s food portfolio?

The global food systems are fragile and put under constant strain due to the relentless rise in human demand for animal protein. Resource scarcity and degradation of ecosystems combined with the greater frequency of shocks and unexpected events such as droughts, pest outbreaks and price fluctuations, create cumulative pressures.

What is the role of aquaculture, farming of fish, shellfish and other aquatic organisms for human consumption, in addressing this dilemma? Will aquaculture, which is the fastest growing sector of the food system, enhance or detract from the resilience of the global food system?

These questions are posed in an article published in the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), authored by a group of globally renowned interdisciplinary scholars led by Max Troell of the Beijer Institute for Ecological Economics and the Stockholm Resilience Centre. The article is a result of the Beijer Institute’s annual Askö meeting.

The global food system: fragile and vulnerable
More food is needed for a growing global population and there is an increasing appetite for animal protein – particularly in countries with growing economies such as China and India. This poses a challenge in terms of using natural resources, fish feed, water and energy, as efficiently as possible while minimising environmental impacts. At the same time, resource scarcity and the impacts of climate change put pressure on food production systems.

These pressures of increasing production while facing diminishing resources also occur in the context of rapidly fluctuating food prices, undermining food security. This was demonstrated during 2008 when spikes in food prices led to food riots in many places around the world.

Enter Aquaculture
Aquaculture offers the potential to reduce the fragility of the global food system by acting as a buffer by increasing the variety of proteins that are available for human consumption.

"The rapid rise of aquaculture during the last two decades provokes both optimism and apprehension among scientists and policy analysts concerned with global food security," says Marc Metian, co-author.

The growth is indeed remarkable. In the past couple of decades the cultivation of fish and shellfish in freshwater and marine systems grew at an annual rate that substantially exceeded that of poultry, pork, dairy, beef, and grains. As a general trend, the price of farmed seafood has also been more stable than prices in other sectors of the food system.

Aquaculture's contribution to global food supplies will depend on its use of food-grade crops and its ability to use agriculture residues, and also on its future use of wild fish for feeds –  something that is also entangled with issues of social equity and ethics. A key example is the use of fish and crops directly for food versus using them to feed farmed aquatic animals and livestock.

An innovative approach
The paper uses an innovative framework called Portfolio theory, which enabled the authors to analyse how growth in aquaculture and diversifying food production may enhance the ability of the global food system to meet future demands under changing conditions.

"This first set of global estimates of the use of crops for feed in aquaculture indicates that the crops used are often the same as those used for terrestrial animal farming, but also shows that the volumes used for aquaculture are still low," says Max Troell.

A call to action – moving beyond academia
The authors conclude that the present diversity of aquaculture does contribute important elements of stability to the world's food portfolio, but in the long run this will depend on how the sector develops in terms of species composition, feed inputs, and system design and operation.

Finally, they make a strong call to action:

"If the aquaculture industry seeks to dominate the global market for animal protein, it should take a leading role in promoting a strategy of resilience. By doing so, it can contribute to improving the stability of the world's portfolio of proteins in support of global food security. This requires the development of a diversity of aquaculture species; the promotion of ethically sourced co-products from the crop, livestock, and fisheries sectors for feeds; infrastructure design that uses renewable energy and, the implementation of management practices that minimize wastes, environmental impacts and social inequalities."

Troell, M., Rosamond L. Naylor, M. Metian, M. Beveridge, P. Tyedmers, C. Folke, K. Arrow, S. Barrett, A-S. Crépin, P. Ehrlich, Å. Gren, N. Kautsky, S. Levin, K. Nyborg, H. Österblom, S. Polasky, M. Scheffer, B. Walker, T. Xepapadeas, A. de Zeeuw. 20104. Does Aquaculture Add Resilience to the Global Food System? PNAS 2014


Book: Principles of social-ecological urbanism

This new publication is the result of a close collaboration between researchers at the Beijer Institute,  the School of Architecture, Stockholms Resilience Centre and KIT Arkitektur. It presents the principles of urban design articulated in the work on the project Albano Resilient Campus, a new multi-university urban district on the edge between Stcokholm city centre and the Royal National City Park.

As a case study, the project shows how urban development can interact with precious local ecosystems and greenspaces. Its ambition is to formulate a new model for sustainable urban development in accordance with social-ecological principles. 
For questions on distribution or review copies, please contact Lars Marcus, Professor of Urban Design at KTH School of Architecture.
Barthel, S., J. Colding, H. Erixon, S. Grahn, C. Kärsten, L. Marcus, J. Torsvall. 2013. Principles of Social-Ecological Urbanism - Case Study: Albano Campus, Stockholm. Trita-ARK Forskningspublikationer 2013:3

Water resilience for human prosperity

New book introduces new framework for water governance and management

Water is the bloodstream of nature and wise stewardship of freshwater, from the very local to the regional, is central to human development and prosperity. But over-use and mismanagement of freshwater resources now threatens the functioning of ecosystems that are crucial to human activities.

The new book Water Resilience for Human Prosperity, analyses the problems and provides examples of successful water resource management with main focus on freshwater use for current and future food production. The key message of the book that by identifying and understanding the available water resources for humans and nature, we can find solutions that provide prosperity for more people and for a longer time.

The two major forces impacting the water cycle are human-induced: land-use change and consumption for agriculture, households and industries. Understanding the feedbacks in social-ecological systems can help in building water resilience, argue the authors.

"Water is key for maintaining and enhancing the resilience of social-ecological systems that we depend on," says Johan Rockström, director of Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) who is lead author of the book written together with Beijer Institute director Carl Folke and other colleagues at SRC, Stockholm Environment Institute and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Click here to read more 

Water Resilience for Human Prosperity. Johan Rockström, Malin Falkenmark, Carl Folke, Mats Lannerstad, Jennie Barron, Elin Enfors, Line Gordon, Jens Heinke, Holger Hoff and Claudia Pohl-Wostl, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 2014.

Click here to order book

Seminar with Cass R.Sunstein: Freedom of Choice

How a gentle nudge can change our behaviour

Tuesday 29 April 2014, 15.00-16.30
The Beijer Hall, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Lilla Frescativägen 4A, Stockholm
One approach for influencing and changing human behavior, that can be a useful complement to current public policies, is to rely on so-called nudges. Nudging is about making small changes in people’s environment to steer behavior in a specific direction. In Britain the prime minister created a Behavioural Insights Team (known as the “nudge unit”) to implement the concept for shaping public policies, for example to increase organ donations. There is a growing interest to use nudges also for environmental purposes.
Cass R. Sunstein, Harvard Professor and former advisor to President Obama, presents the science behind the concept and arguments for using it. Behavioral economists have established that people often make decisions that run counter to their best interests. Sometimes we disregard the long term, are unrealistically optimistic, or fail to see what is in front of us. With this evidence in mind, Sunstein argues for a new form of paternalism, one that protects people against serious errors but also recognizes the risk of government overreaching and usually preserves freedom of choice.
Cass R. Sunstein is currently the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard University and the founder and director of the Program on Behavioral Economics and Public Policy at Harvard Law School. He writes widely on topics ranging from behavioral economics to constitutional, administrative and environmental law and author of the books Why Nudge?: the Politics of Libertarian Paternalism (2014) and Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (with Richard H. Thaler, 2008).
15:00 Carl Folke, Director of the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Scientific Director of Stockholm resilience Centre, opens the seminar.
           Gunhild Stordalen, Chair of the board of GreeNudge, introduces the main speaker
15:10 Cass R. Sunstein, Harvard University. Freedom of choice.
16:00 Steffen Kallbekken, GreeNudge and CICERO. An introduction to GreeNudge.
            Therese Lindahl, Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics. The potential for green nudges in Sweden
16:15 Panel discussion on nudging in Sweden with Cass R. Sunstein, Therese Lindahl and Steffen Kallbekken. Moderated by Agneta Sundin.

The seminar is organised together with GreeNudge and Stockholm Resilience Centre

Download invitation

No registration is needed

Short course: Applied Methods Related to Regime Shifts in Social-Ecological Systems

The course is arranged by the Beijer Institute in conjunction with the World Conference of Environmental and Resource Economists, WCERE 2014 June 27-28, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. Its target audience is researchers from developing and transition countries, especially encouraging applicants from the regional environmental economics networks CEEPA, EEPSEA, LACEEP, and SANDEE.

Many ecosystems have nonlinear features that can cause them to shift abruptly from one state to another. Human action is typically the trigger for such regime shifts, which can be difficult to reverse and can cause the loss of valuable ecosystem services. Regime shifts have been documented for example in coral reefs, savannahs, and lakes. More details and examples can be found in the Regime Shifts database ( Economists have become increasingly interested in understanding how regime shifts affect environmental management and policy decisions.
The course is a standalone follow up to the one held two years ago in Prague which was mostly on theory. This time we will focus on two methodological approaches for conducting applied research on environmental regime shifts: statistical methods for identifying thresholds and tipping points in empirical data sets, and experimental methods to assess behavioral responses of people to regime shifts.
Deadline for applications is 1 February 2014. For more information and how to apply click here.