- New collaboration to tackle antibiotic resistence
- Clarifying and correcting criticism about China's aquaculture industry
- The economics of tipping points
- Why cooperation alone is not enough to secure sustainable use of a resource
- Design student's shows the wonders of coral reefs and the threats to them.
- Science and seafood-industry dialogue breakthrough for ocean stewardship
- An encyclopedia of resilience
- Research grant to look at "city compaction"
- Guiding coral reef futures in the Anthropocene
- New grant to increase sustainable seafood production and consumption
- News Archive
New collaboration to tackle antibiotic resistence
Clarifying and correcting criticism about China's aquaculture industry
The economics of tipping points
Beijer researcher Chuan-Chong Li and former co-director Aart de Zeeuw have edited a special issue of the journal Environmental and Resource Economics. This special issue originates from a 2014 workshop on the economics of tipping points organized by the Beijer Institute with the aim to bring together a group of experts to take stock on where the research stand in this area.
A starting point for this line of research was another Beijer Institute workshop for ecologists and economists, in Malta 1998, where ecologists Stephen Carpenter and Marten Scheffer presented their shallow lake model, showing that at some point, a small additional release of phosphorus to the lake flips the lake quickly from “blue water” into “green soup”. Ecological services such as fresh water, fish and amenities are substantially decreased by the flip. Lowering the release of phosphorus afterwards does not restore the lake immediately, it requires more effort or becomes even impossible. The general conclusion was that these flips have to be prevented. An economist challenged this conclusion: what if the possibility to release phosphorus on the lake is for some reason so beneficial that the net result is positive, even if these negative consequences for the ecological services are taken into account? A new research area was born: the economics of tipping points in ecological systems.
What is a tipping point?
A well-known metaphor is the “last straw” that breaks the camel’s back. When a critical load is reached, a minor addition may cause large and abrupt reactions. Formal models that can explain such a phenomenon usually have the following property. When some variable is gradually changed, the state of the system remains in an area with a high level of ecological services. However, at some critical point, a sudden shift occurs to a state in an area with a low level of ecological services. In such a case, the system has moved into another domain of attraction. This is called a regime shift, and the point where it happens is called a tipping point. Economics enters the picture when trade-offs are made between the benefits that are attached to the variables that drive the change on the one hand, and the possible loss in ecological services on the other hand.
Why cooperation alone is not enough to secure sustainable use of a resource
Full reference: Schill C, Wijermans N, Schlüter M, Lindahl T (2016) Cooperation Is Not Enough—Exploring Social-Ecological Micro-Foundations for Sustainable Common-Pool Resource Use. PLoS ONE 11(8): e0157796. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0157796
Design student's shows the wonders of coral reefs and the threats to them.
Science and seafood-industry dialogue breakthrough for ocean stewardship
An encyclopedia of resilience
Research grant to look at "city compaction"
In 2050 the world’s urban population is expected to have reached 6 billion. In estimation this would entail an areal expansion equivalent to the whole of Spain, Germany and France put together. How these urban areas are built will impact greatly on climate change and biodiversity.
Researchers Johan Colding and Åsa Gren at the Beijer Institute and Stockholm Resilience Centre have received a grant of 1,5 million SEK for research to increase the understanding of environmental pros and cons of “city compaction” – densifying the city – focusing on the Stockholm region.The project aims to critically review arguments for city compaction in academic literature; to build knowledge concerning what kind of land that is used for compaction in the Stockholm region; and to investigate, together with architecture researchers, how compaction can be designed to better promote biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Colding and Gren are excited about the grant as they see these challenges as key for sustainable development globally:
“The urban landscape is ever growing and changing and will continue to do so,” says Colding. “We are now at a point where the decisions we make on how to build and develop cities will be of critical importance and determine our chances of reaching sustainability and building for resilience in the systems we depend upon.”
“The UN Sustainable Development Goals includes one that specifically is about sustainability in cities. With the rate and scale of urbanisation today it is clear that this kind of research is needed to find ways of reaching that goal,” Gren concludes.
Guiding coral reef futures in the Anthropocene
This year’s coral bleaching event that destroyed vast tracts of valuable coral reefs, due to El Niño and climate change, was the most widespread in recorded history. Many now ask how much more warming in combination with overfishing, pollution and other human pressures the world’s coral reefs can endure?
The current state of knowledge is, for the first time ever, synthesised at a global level in a new article published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment by Beijer Institute director Carl Folke and PhD student Jean-Baptiste Jouffray (also at GEDB), together with colleagues at the Stockholm Resilience Centre and elsewhere.
Safe operating spaces
“Ensuring that reefs and the many benefits they provide to human societies endure will require that fishing, water quality, and climate change stay within acceptable levels or ‘safe operating spaces’,” says lead author Albert Norström, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
Defining these safe levels is challenging because coral reefs in different parts of the world will respond differently to human pressures. There is also a lack of data and studies on how much reef organisms will be able to adapt to change.
"The values we provide should be regarded as guidelines, which will become more accurate with further studies and greater understanding," Norström continues.
The concept of safe operating spaces follows the precautionary principle with the aim to confine human pressures far enough from really dangerous levels, or thresholds, that might trigger abrupt and permanent coral reef degradation. The team of scientists chose this approach because despite the importance of thresholds, and recent advances in predicting them, they are extremely hard to generalise globally.
The authors hope that a better understanding of safe operating spaces might help bring issues of coral reef sustainability to the international negotiating tables. This is important because local management efforts alone will not be able to keep pace with the escalating speed of social, technological and ecological changes that challenge these safe operating spaces, they say.
“Conventional approaches like marine protected areas can offer local socioeconomic and ecological benefits, but are usually far too narrow in scope and small in scale, and often suffer from weak compliance and enforcement,” explains Magnus Nyström, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
“Coral reef scientists around the world should engage more with the international policy arena to work toward sharp reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals,” adds Jean-Baptiste Jouffray
Norström, A., M. Nyström, J. Jouffray, C. Folke, N. Graham, F. Moberg, P. Olsson, and G. Williams. 2016. Guiding coral reef futures in the Anthropocene. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 14(9):490–498
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.