Trees

New collaboration to tackle antibiotic resistence
2017-02-13

Drug resistance of bacteria is on the rise and already kills hundreds of thousands every year. The use of antibiotics for both humans and in animal production is projected to increase at an alarming rate in the decades to come. To preserve this dwindling global resource, there is a need to urgently move towards more sustainable practices and fundamentally change the way how we relate to infectious diseases and microbes in general.
 
Researchers from Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere (GEDB) program, The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, and Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) have joined forces with members of the ReAct network to discuss global challenges related to antibiotic resistance and identify potential areas of collaboration.
 
ReAct- Action on Antibiotic Resistance- is an independent and global multidisciplinary network active as a catalyst for advocacy and engagement on antibiotic.
 
The new collaboration aims to identify innovative strategies for tackling antibiotic resistance as part of sustainable development. One area of collaboration will identify development pathways that explicitly see microbes as part of the biosphere that human civilization depends on. Microbes are often forgotten when we talk about the biosphere, emphasizing this point will help promote more sustainable strategies for tackling antibiotic resistance and infectious diseases that does not solely rely on drug innovation. This will help social-ecological resilience in our relationship with microbes.
 
“We all need to become stewards of the microbes in our body and in the environment”, says Peter Søgaard Jørgensen, a researcher at the GEDB program and junior research leader at Stockholm Resilience Centre. Søgaard Jørgensen also leads a two-year synthesis project on social-ecological governance of resistance evolution at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) in Maryland, USA.
 
”Without strong political leadership, funding and behavioural change at all levels of society , antibiotic resistance will have devastating effects on all health systems and become a serious threat to sustainable development” says Otto Cars, professor of Infectious Diseases at Uppsala University and founder of ReAct.
 
Global animal food production systems provide another area for collaboration on antibiotics, especially related to seafood production. “We have already initiated studies on antimicrobials in aquaculture production and are trying to further expand this research through new projects in Asia where most of the production originates from”, says Max Troell, Associated Professor at The Beijer Institute of ecological economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Troell leads the program on Sustainable Seafood and is also theme leader of Global food systems and multifunctional landscapes at SRC.
 
Anna Zorzet, Head of ReAct Europe at Uppsala University concludes: “One of the great challenges with antibiotic resistance is its cross-sectoral nature which negatively affect both human health, animal health and the environment. Effective action to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR) requires coherence in policy responses across these sectors in the diverse settings of developed and developing countries. Tackling AMR through a lens of resilience is a promising way to achieve that and we are excited about this collaboration towards this end.”
 
 

Clarifying and correcting criticism about China's aquaculture industry
2017-02-13

Beijer Institute researchers Max Troell and Patrik Henriksson have together with colleagues issued a rebuttal to criticism of their recent Science paper China’s aquaculture and the world’s fisheries. In the study, which was led by Ling Cao of Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University, the researchers argue that China’s impact on marine ecosystems and global seafood supplies is unrivalled given its dominant role in fish production, consumption, processing and trade.
 
China's aquaculture sector, by far the world’s largest, is of enormous global importance for meeting the rising demand for food and particularly for animal protein. Understanding the implications of the industry’s past and current practices is important for managing its future impacts and improving its sustainability.
 
Underlying intention misinterpreted
The critique of the article, which is led by Dong Han of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Freshwater Aquaculture Collaborative Innovation Center of Hubei Province, Wuhan, China, claim that the Science paper does not acknowledge the important contribution of the Chinese aquaculture sector to global food supply and that while China’s aquaculture volume continues to grow, its fishmeal usage remains stable, and the sector will therefore indirectly reduce pressure on wild fish stocks worldwide.
They claim that the Science paper does not acknowledge the important contribution of the Chinese aquaculture sector to global food supply and that they trot out the “Chinese aquaculture threat” theory.
 
Troell and his colleagues reply that “We are aware of Han and colleagues’ comprehensive work on substitution and sustainable sourcing of fishmeal and fish oil in aquaculture, which is clearly aligned with our perspective. However, we believe that the underlying intention of our Science paper has been seriously misinterpreted, and there are several inaccuracies in their review that are important to clarify and correct.”
 
In the Science paper, Troell and his colleagues unraveled the complicated nature of China’s expanding aquaculture sector and its multifaceted use of fish inputs in feeds, to the best of their abilities. They also developed a roadmap for China’s aquaculture to become self-supporting of fishmeal by recycling processing wastes from its farmed products as feed.
 
An important "black box"
The rebuttal goes on to say that “China’s aquaculture sector remains an important “black box” for many scientists and policy analysts with respect to farming practices, aquafeed demand, domestic fishmeal production, trash fish consumption, and impacts on global capture fisheries."
"Our paper helps to crack open this black box, and it provides an integrated and innovative perspective on the status and trends of China’s aquaculture development. If Han and colleagues have more accurate data to share, we would be more than happy to take these data into account,” the rebuttal states.
 
 

The economics of tipping points
2017-01-31

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.

Background

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.

Read the introduction to the special issue and a summary of the papers

 

 

Why cooperation alone is not enough to secure sustainable use of a resource
2017-01-18

The tragedy of the commons may not be so tragic after all. When Elinor Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009, she had demonstrated that people are indeed capable of implementing their own rules to prevent overuse of the shared natural resources they depend upon.
 
To succeed with this, resource users must collaborate. But does cooperation necessarily lead to sustainable use of common-pool resources, like fisheries or forests? According to a study recently published in PLOS One, the short answer is no.
 
The study says that the group of resource users also needs at least one with relevant ecological knowledge, confidence in that knowledge and a willingness to share the knowledge with the others.
 
 
In the study, Beijer researchers Caroline Schill and Therese Lindahl, together with Nanda Wijermans and Maja Schlüter at the Stockholm Resilience Centre looked at what other factors, beyond the typically-studied ones such as trust and social preferences, are important for a group to use a shared natural resource sustainably.
 
”The distribution of ecological knowledge within the group, in combination with the individuals’ confidence in that knowledge and the willingness of individuals to share their knowledge with the other group members are critical factors for sustainable outcomes”, says lead author Caroline Schill.
 
Lab experiments meet agent-based modelling
To get to this conclusion, the researchers developed an agent-based model informed by recently published behavioural lab experiments and observations around them.
The behavioural experiments were intended to reflect the basic elements of a common-pool resource management situation in which a group of resource users, such as fishers, share for example a common fishing ground. The logic goes: the more units each individual user extracts from the common-pool resource, the less will be available for the group as a whole in the future.
 
The study revealed the importance of having at least one informed and confident member in a group. This member, or agent, was able to stimulate the less informed members of the group to pursue a more sustainable use of the resource.
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"Sharing knowledge and being informed and confident has a positive effect on the decisions made by an otherwise uninformed, low-confidence group", says Nanda Wijermans.
Although the results cannot be used directly to develop policies or management recommendations, the study does provide some insights for community based management of common-pool resources:
a) not every member of a resource user community needs to have perfect ecological knowledge in order for the community to secure the long-term provision of the common-pool resource if that there are processes where sharing of knowledge and experiences is possible
b) knowledge sharing is crucial
c) low confidence in knowledge, which can be interpreted as perceived environmental uncertainty, is not necessarily a bad thing, as it can open up for change and possibilities for learning.
 
Moreover, this study also impacts research around common-pool resources: it stimulates to also focus on processes beyond cooperation and provides hints for factors that could be included in further (empirical) studies.
 
Future applications and extensions
In the future, the authors want to use the model to test further hypotheses about individual and collective decision-making and learning as well as incorporating more realistic ecosystem dynamics.
Schill says it would be interesting to allow for more abrupt changes in the availability of the resource, so-called regime shifts and account for their inherent uncertainties.
"For this paper’s purpose, we kept a fairly simple description of the ecological system, but for other purposes it may be fruitful to incorporate more realistic ecosystem dynamics. In the face of ecological changes and uncertainties, confident individuals, knowledgeable about such dynamics might be even more crucial."
 
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

Read the paper

 

Design student's shows the wonders of coral reefs and the threats to them.
2017-01-18

In 2016 coral death warnings succeeded each other and high water temperatures caused the worst coral bleaching to date on the Great Barrier Reef. But it is not too late to save the precious reefs. In an exhibition in Stockholm titled ''A world that can live forever '', design students gives form to research on the vital life in the oceans.
 
 
The exhibition is a joint project by the Beijer Institute, Beckmans College of Design and the Swedish design store Svenskt Tenn in Stockholm, where the exhibition is shown until 29 January. Via the Kjell and Märta Beijer Foundation, Svenskt Tenn’s profit support research at the Beijer Institute. 
 
- The situation for the world’s coral reefs has never been as acute as it is now and it feels important to highlight the Swedish research conducted in this area. Students at Beckman’s represent a new generation of designers with a new perspective on the world and they were given free hands to interpret the research, says Thommy Bindefeld, marketing manager at Swedish Tenn.
 
Researchers from the Beijer Institute and Stockholm Resilience Centre gave introductory lectures and provided background readings and tuition to the students throughout a five week course. The result is 16 very diverse interpretations ranging from pictures and posters to candles and textiles. 3D printouts of cryoconserved corals, an informative board game and “fake” manmade corals created with the help of a fractal design software, are but a few examples of the student’s creations, that in different ways highlight the fact that eighty percent of the coral reefs in the Caribbean sea, and fifty percent of reefs in the Pacific have already died. Further risks to the reefs make research and action more important than ever.
 
- Survival of the coral reefs is extremely important for communities around the world. The species-rich reefs provide people with food, attract lucrative tourism and is a natural protection against erosion around islands and coastal cities. This exhibition shows the threats of overfishing and global warming, but also that it is not too late to stop coral death if we use all the knowledge we have today, says Carl Folke, Beijer Institute director.
 
The opening of the exhibition 17 January also featured soprano saxophone artist Anders Paulsson who played his own composition Danjugan Sanctuary. Anders Paulsson is co-founder of the organisation Coral Guardians.
 

Science and seafood-industry dialogue breakthrough for ocean stewardship
2017-01-17

Seafood business commits to sustainability efforts
 
Eight of the world’s largest seafood companies have issued a ten-point statement committing to action on ocean stewardship following the first “keystone dialogue” between scientists and business leaders. The companies commit to improving transparency and traceability and reducing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in their supply chains. Antibiotic use in aquaculture, greenhouse gas emissions and plastic pollution will also be prioritized. The seafood businesses commit to eliminating any products in their supply chains that may have been obtained through “modern slavery including forced, bonded and child labour”.
 
A new global initiative
The statement says signatories “represent a global force, not only in the operation of the seafood industry, but also in contributing to a resilient planet.”
It was signed by the two largest companies by revenues (Maruha Nichiro Corporation and Nippon Suisan Kaisha, Ltd), the two largest tuna companies (Thai Union Group PCL and Dongwon Industries), the two largest salmon farmers (Marine Harvest ASA and Cermaq – subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation) and the two largest aquafeeds companies (Skretting – subsidiary of Nutreco, and Cargill Aqua Nutrition).
 
 
The announcement is part of a new initiative - the Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship – that, for the first time, connects wild capture fisheries to aquaculture businesses, connects European and North American companies to Asian companies and connects the global seafood business to science. The initiative is the conclusion of the Soneva Dialogue, a unique meeting between CEOs, senior leadership of major seafood companies, and leading scientists.
 
The dialogue, was initiated by the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), withBeijer director Carl Folke and Jean-Baptiste Jouffray, joint PhD student of SRC, GEDB and the Beijer Institute, in the organising team. It took place 11-13 November at the Soneva Fushi Resort on the Maldives under the patronage of HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden – Advocate for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
 
The dialogue was a Stockholm Resilience Centre event supported by Forum for the Future and the Soneva Foundation. The Walton Family Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation funded the dialogue.
 
What are keystone actors?
The dialogue is the first between scientists and “keystone actors” a term coined in 2015 by Carl Folke and Henrik Österblom, science directors at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Keystone species play a disproportional role in determining the structure and function of an ecosystem. Increasingly, large transnational corporations now play this role, for example, in the oceans and in rainforests.
Österblom led research identifying the keystone actors in the world’s oceans. The team identified 13 transnational corporations controlling 11-16% of wild marine catch and up to 40% of the largest and most valuable fish stocks.
“We invited the leaders of these companies to a dialogue to build trust and develop a common understanding about the state of the oceans,” said Österblom.
“We were delighted so many companies accepted our offer. This shows they are aware of the urgency of the situation and willing to engage in these issues.”
 
Better management can increase annual catches
According to related research published by a group of U.S. scientists in 2016, by 2050, good management of global fisheries could lead to increase in annual catches of over 16 million metric tons and $53 billion in profit compared to the current trajectory.
 
Stockholm Resilience Centre Director Johan Rockström said, “The small concentration of multinational companies means that CEOs are significant leverage points to effectively engage in transforming the entire seafood sector towards more sustainable practices”.
 
UK-based Forum for the Future’s founding director Jonathon Porritt, said: "It's hugely encouraging to see these leading companies in the global seafood industry making such critical commitments to help protect the world's oceans. This combination of world-class science and inspirational corporate leadership is a powerful one - and I've no doubt we'll need to see a lot more of it over the next few years." The organization was a key supporter of the dialogue.
 
“Creating more awareness of the opportunities – and business necessities – of managing seafood sustainably should be a key priority for CEOs,” added Jean-Baptiste Jouffray.
 
The first keystone dialogue will now be followed up with additional meetings and dialogue between science and business. A next meeting is already scheduled for next year, where more concrete joint actions will be identified.
 

An encyclopedia of resilience
2016-12-01

Beijer Institute director Carl Folke has been one of the world’s leading scholars in resilience thinking for decades. Now, he has summarised more than 40 years of resilience research in an article published in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Environmental Science. It is part of the Oxford Research Encyclopedia (ORE) programme, through which Oxford University is building a collection of online encyclopedias in more than twenty disciplines. They are all continuously updated by the leading scholars and peer-reviewed to combine “the discoverability of digital with the standards of academic publishing,” as the ORE program puts it on its website.
 
The word is spreading
Carl Folke concludes that resilience thinking has gone from the fringe to becoming more and more mainstreamed in science, practice, policy and business across the world, ranging from major international research platforms and poverty alleviation efforts to political frameworks and business strategies.
His article ranges from the early scientific work in the 1970s to the explosion of both research and practical applications of resilience thinking in more recent times.
 
“In the last 15 years, the number of scientific publications on resilience in relation to the environment has increased about 25 times, to well over 6,000 publications with more than a total of 120,000 citations across the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, and in interdisciplinary journals”, writes Carl Folke.
 
Learn, adapt, transform
In short, resilience is having the capacity to persist in the face of change, to continue to develop with ever changing environments, Carl Folke explains. In the long term, it is also about the capacity of people, societies and cultures to adapt or even transform into new development pathways in the face of change. 
 
"In resilience thinking, adaptation refers to human actions that sustain development on current pathways, while transformation is about shifting development into other emergent pathways and even creating new ones," Carl Folke continues.
 
In essence, resilience thinking can help us avoid the trap of simply rebuilding and repairing flawed structures of the past, like an economic system overly reliant on risky speculation and overexploitation of natural resources. On the contrary, resilience thinking is about anticipating, adapting, learning, and transforming human actions in light of the unprecedented challenges of our increasingly turbulent world.
 
 
 

Research grant to look at "city compaction"
2016-12-01

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
2016-11-08

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

Read more

Request publication

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
2016-10-13

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.