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Water resilience for human prosperity
2014-04-23

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
2014-04-10

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).
 
Program
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
2014-01-15

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.

Description
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 (www.regimeshifts.org). 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.

Mangroves offer protection against storm winds
2013-12-13

It is well known that mangrove forests can protect lives and property from storms and earth quakes by buffering the impacts of storm surges and tsunamis.  A Beijer Institute article now shows that mangrove forests also damper wind velocity and provide protection from damage caused by wind.
 
Mangrove forests are areas with woody trees or shrubs in tropical and subtropical tidelands. Rich in biodiversity, mangrove leafs and roots release nutrients  and many commercially attractive fish species reproduce in its waters. Half of the world’s mangrove forests have disappeared since the middle of the last century.  Conversion of the waters for shrimp-farming constitute 25 percent of the loss, wood extraction, industrial development and tourism are other major drivers.
 
Theoretical model and empirical observations agree
Former Mäler Scholar Saudamini Das, now at Institute of Economic Growth India and Beijer Institute researcher and SRC theme leader Anne-Sophie Crépin constructed a theoretical mode in order to investigate whether mangroves can slow down wind velocity and thereby provide protection. They calibrated it to simulate wind damage caused by a storm that hit the state of Odisha in 1999, and ran the model looking for a relation between mangroves and damage caused by wind.
 
The model showed indeed that the presence of mangrove forests along the coastline served to decrease the amount of damage from wind to houses.
 
“We found that in villages that were protected by mangroves there was also significantly less damage to houses caused by wind, the forests along the coast seem to break wind velocity so much that we see a clear pattern where villages located behind the forests were not as hard hit,” explains Anne-Sophie Crépin.
 
Using empirical data from records of the storm in Odisha the authors were able to test the accuracy of the predictions given by the model, finding that they provided an accurate representation of what happened in real-life.
 
“We could see that the damage that was simulated in the model matched the damage that was recorded after the storm quite accurately. This validates the model and tells us that we have calibrated it in a good way, to get the most realistic results,” explains Crépin.
 
Even in villages located relatively far from the coastline and the mangroves, the authors found that there was significantly less damage to houses compared to similarly located villages with no mangrove protection.
 
One more reason to protect the mangrove
The authors also calculated the monetary value and based on avoided reconstruction costs, each mangrove protected family saved around USD 23 making the economic value for wind attenuation services of one hectare of mangrove USD 177,  which corresponds to 3.17 million USD for the study area was saved (in 1999 prices). 
 
”These results add to the knowledge we have of the important roles that mangroves play. This is another reason to invest in keeping mangrove forests,” Anne-Sophie Crépin concludes.
 
 
 
Das, S., Crépin, A.-S. Mangroves can provide protection against wind damage during storms, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2013.09.021
 
 
 

 

Challenges to make farmed fish reach the poor
2013-12-11

Farmed fish is big business and the aquaculture industry is growing, but not yet a savior for the hungry poor.  Today, more than 40 percent of all fish consumed derives from farming, but the distribution of it is skewed and the nutrition levels could be improved.  The contribution of aquaculture to global food security is both an issue of where the production occurs and what is being produced. 
 
In a paper in the Journal of Fish Biology, Beijer researcher and Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) theme leader Max Troell, together with SRC partner Marc Metian and partners from the organization WorldFish,  looked at the contribution of farmed fish to food security and nutrition needs of poor consumers. They found that fish farming is largely absent from Sub-Saharan Africa, home to a large proportion of the world’s poor. Although soil and climate is favourable, the region falls short when it comes to required production and the demand for aquaculture products grows quicker than the growth of aquaculture industry .
 
"In Sub-Saharan Africa the undeveloped aquaculture sector is dominated by smallholder, subsistence-type operations where access to the small amounts of fish produced is largely limited to producer households and their neighbors," Max Troell explains. 
 
Production of smaller-size fish is one pathway to increase access of farmed fish to poor communities, as it is more energy efficient and cheaper to produce. It can be  an excellent source of animal protein but because of species, size and method of rearing it is often inferior to small wild fish species as a source of essential fatty acids and micronutrients.
 
“The point is not how much fish is eaten but that fish consumption should fulfill its potential to help meet nutritional needs," Troell says.  
 
The authors conclude that more research is needed to identify small species that might be suitable for culture and the feed sector must continue to seek alternative feedstuffs that do not compromise the nutritional quality.
 
 
Beveridge, M.C.M. ; Thilsted, S.H. ; Phillips, M.J. ; Metian, M. ; Troell, M. ; Hall, S.J. 2013. Meeting the food and nutrition needs of the poor: the role of fish and the opportunities and challenges emerging from the rise of aquaculture. Journal of Fish Biology, VOL. 83, Issue 4. DOI: 10.1111/jfb.12187
 

Does the threat of environmental collapse change our behavior?
2013-12-10

The Beijer Institute has been awarded funding from the Swedish research council Formas for a new project in the area of behavioural economics. Led by Dr Therese Lindahl, the project will investigate how and if people’s management of a natural resource is affected by the possible threat of a regime shift. 
 
Many natural resources, like fishing and grazing grounds, are managed as common resources, which often results in over-exploitation. Ecological research show that if an ecosystem, let’s say a grassland used for grazing, is grazed to hard and reach a certain threshold, it can quickly change in to another state, in this case a desert. The ecosystem has undergone a regime shift. Such shifts can have serious impact on human well being and threaten local livelihoods, especially in poorer regions where people may depend heavily on local ecosystems and the goods and services derived from them.
 
The risk of regime shifts can affect people’s will to care for their common resource. Therese Lindahl, program coordinator of the BENN research program of which this project is a part, and her team will use field experiments to investigate the links between the risk and peoples behavior.  She hopes the results will support finding policies that protect livelihoods and the ecological functions they depend on:
“We believe this project fills an important research gap that will provide essential information to help us better understand the social mechanisms underlying regime shifts in ecosystems and how we can overcome them“, says Therese Lindahl.
 
This project will be a part of the BENN research program.
 

Seminar: Our future in the Anthropocene
2013-11-13

See videos from the seminar Our future in the Anthropocene held at the Royal Swedish Academy 27 November 2013
 
Beginning in large scale with the industrial revolution, humanity is now influencing every aspect of the Earth and the biosphere on a scale that matches the great forces of nature. A growing number of scientists think we have entered a new geological era – the Anthropocene.
 
Future Earth is an emerging international research initiative that will develop the knowledge for responding effectively to the risks and opportunities of global environmental change in this new era and for supporting transformation towards global sustainability in the coming decades. Future Earth will mobilize thousands of scientists while strengthening partnerships with policy-makers and other stakeholders to provide sustainability options and solution
 
This seminar aimed to explore different challenges in the context of the Anthropocene for societal development and human wellbeing, addressed within the Future Earth initiative.
 
 
Click on title below to see the lectures
 
 
The epoch of the Anthropocene Professor Will Steffen, Australian National University Climate Change Institute
 
The role of glaciers and poles in the earth system Professor Qin Dahe, Cold and Arid Regions Environment and Engineering Research Institute, Lanzhou 
 
Earth resilience in the Anthropocene Professor Johan Rockström, Stockholm Resilience Centre 
 
Science-governance challenges in the Anthropocene Professor Melissa Leach, STEPS Centre, University of Sussex
 
Human health and global environmental change Dr Elisabet Lindgren, Karolinska Institutet and Stockholm Resilience Centre 
 
Human development in a "good" Anthropocene Professor Garry Peterson, Stockholm Resilience Centre
 

 

J. Marty Anderies Programme Director for BENN
2013-10-02

We are pleased to announce that J. Marty Anderies is the new Programme Director for the Behaviour,  
Economics and Nature Network (BENN) .  Marty Anderies is an Associate Professor with joint appointment in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. He will lead the programme together with Therese Lindahl as programme coordinator.
 
The aim of BENN is to look beyond  current approaches and explore alternative ways to living within planetary boundaries that emphasize achieving a good “fit” between human behavior, the biophysical environment, and governance. With focus on the relationship between human behavior and the environment it will investigate what mechanisms lead to more pro-environmental choices and how they can be promoted and sustained. 
 
Marty Anderies received his PhD in Applied Mathematics from the University of British Columbia. In 2010 he spent part of his sabbatical at the Beijer Institute and Stockholm Resilience Centre and he is also involved in the Global Dynamics and Resilience Programme at the Beijer Institute. His research focuses on developing an understanding of how ecological, behavioural, social and institutional factors affect the robustness and vulnerability characteristics of coupled social-ecological systems. His work combines qualitative insights from present-day, historical and archaeological case studies of social-ecological systems with formal mathematical modelling and experiments with human subjects. It explores how individual decision-making processes interact with governance regimes to influence social and environmental outcomes. 
 
 

Improving sea food eco-certification
2013-09-12

Seafood is among the most internationally traded food commodities in the world and with a steadily growing population, there is an increased demand for animal source proteins such as fish and shellfish. Aquaculture is also the fastest growing sector of animal food production in the world. In fact, about half of all seafood products now originate from farming. As with other food production systems aquaculture can negatively impact ecosystems and affect global flows of energy and resources. Tools aiming at mitigating environmental impacts of aquaculture include eco-certification. 
 A growing (and hungry) Asian middle class 
In a recent article published in AMBIO, Beijer Institute researcher Max Troell together with colleagues from Gotland University and WorldFish Center in Malaysia analyzed whether certification can be an effective tool for a more sustainable aquaculture production. What they found were a range of uncertainties. Currently, only around 4 % of the total production from aquaculture is estimated to be eco-certified. Compliance with agreed standards is inconsistent, witha lack of mechanisms or incentives for improvement among the worst performers. But more importantly, current certification schemes focus on species predominantly consumed in Europe and the US, with limited coverage of Asian markets.  
 
"Asia, a major consumer and already producing 90% of farmed seafood, has experienced an increase in demand for animal source foods of 2.5-5 % per year. Future certification should therefore focus on Asia. A growing middle class with a large appetite for seafood together with accelerated urbanization will amplify seafood production in the years to come," Troell says.
 
What to do 
In addition to this geographical shift of focus, Troell and his colleagues present a range of improvements of the eco-certification schemes: 
  
- Additional species need to be explored for eco-certification
 
- Invest in small-scale farmers: improved technical and financial assistance to small-scale farmers and enterprises that face barriers to certification is required to enable their participation in certification schemes
 
- Better alignment: certification standards should also consider actions that can improve the management of feed ingredients, habitat rehabilitation for biodiversity and ecosystem services, energy consumption and impacts on climate change - e.g. by applying Life Cycle Analysis 
 
Jonell, M., Phillips, M., Rönnbäck, P. & Troell, M. (2013) Eco-certification of farmed seafood: Will it make a difference? AMBIO (Published online: 23 April 2013) DOI 10.1007/s13280-013-0409-3

 

Nine conditions for a more all-purpose kind of resilience
2013-04-26

Through history unprecedented and unexpected catastrophes have occurred, such as the Krakatao eruption 1883, killing 36 000 and lowering the Earth’s temperature the following years, through the ash particles released. Examples from recent years could be the Japan earthquake and tsunami of 2011 or the mad cow disease outbreak.

To better cope with such events requires general resilience, and economists and ecologists on the Beijer Institute’s annual Askö meeting 2010, in a recently published paper in the journal Sustainability point to the increasing need for a "general resilience" and they suggest nine important conditions to achieve it.

"General resilience is the capacity of social-ecological systems to adapt or transform in response to unfamiliar, unexpected and extreme shocks. Processes for building general resilience are an emerging and crucially important area of research," write the team of scientists, including Beijer Institute researchers Anne-Sophie Crepin, Gustav Engström, Carl Folke and Karl-Göran Mäler together with Economics Laureate Kenneth Arrow and others .
 

Absorb shocks of all kind
Hence, general resilience is about strengthening the capacity to absorb shocks like storms and floods, even financial meltdowns.  Building such broad resilience to unknown disturbances is far more difficult than planning for specific resilience to known types of disturbances. In fact, large-scale disturbances like the mad cow disease and the huge Japan earthquake and tsunami, are outside the scope of experience. The latter example was an earthquake which was extraordinarily powerful and triggered a tsunami with a 14 meter wave that breached the seawalls designed for the expected maximum wave height of 5.7 meter. In addition, the tsunami damaged nuclear power stations by shutting down back up diesel generators which were located in “safe" places on the assumption that the sea walls would hold.
 

"Such events are unusually so intense or extensive that they require another type of resilience building," argue the authors.
"We should build more 'all-purpose kind' of resilience, although building such resilience is far more difficult and costly than planning for known types of disturbance."
 

Among the conditions that enable general resilience, the authors of the new paper include nine important aspects: (1) diversity, (2) modularity, (3) openness, (4) reserves, (5) feedbacks, (6) nestedness, (7) monitoring, (8) leadership, and (9) trust.
 

Diversity, openness and trust
Diversity, for example, entails species that have similar functions but different responses to disturbance (response diversity), so the function is maintained even if one component of an ecosystem is damaged. Diversity of perspectives and experience also matters as much as individual ability, when teams of people are solving complex problems.
Modularity is important because it helps to contain disturbances by separating social-ecological systems from each other, e.g. land management with prescribed fire that uses firebreaks to limit the spread of the fire. Similarly, quarantine mechanisms may restrict the spread of epidemics or invasive species.
 

In other cases, openness of a social-ecological system might be the key to general resilience, e.g. seed dispersal as a key to recovery from large infrequent forest fires. Hence, there are a number of trade-offs between modularity and openness that is well understood for some social-ecological systems, but not for others.
 

"Development of trust is another important aspect when building general resilience, determining whether people will be able to collaborate effectively in relation to unfamiliar, unexpected and extreme shocks," the authors conclude.

Read online

Read more about resilience and related articles

Carpenter, S.R.; Arrow, K.J.; Barrett, S.; Biggs, R.; Brock, W.A.; Crépin, A.-S.; Engström, G.; Folke, C.; Hughes, T.P.; Kautsky, N.; Li, C.-Z.; McCarney, G.; Meng, K.; Mäler, K.-G.; Polasky, S.; Scheffer, M.; Shogren, J.; Sterner, T.; Vincent, J.R.; Walker, B.; Xepapadeas, A.; Zeeuw, A.D. General Resilience to Cope with Extreme Events. Sustainability 2012, 4, 3248-3259