Trees

EAT-Lancet commission - new solutions for our global food system
2016-09-09

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

Carl Folke receives IGU Planet and Humanity Award
2016-09-08

At the closing ceremony of the 33rd International Geographical Congress in August 2016, Beijer Institute director Carl Folke was awarded the International Geographical Union'smost prestigious Planet and Humanity Medal. 

The award goes to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to environmental issues. Previous recipients have included Al Gore, Gro Harlem Brundtland 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.

 

Call for Sweden to take the lead for sustainable seafood
2016-05-26

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 ?
2016-02-17

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
2015-11-11

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 (http://www.eaere2016.org). 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.
 
Scholarships
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. 
 
APPLICATION DEADLINE: FEBRUARY 1, 2016
 
For more information and how to apply click here.

Seminar: People and Sulfur: The Forgotten Element Cycle
2015-11-09

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
2015-10-19

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. http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-07681-200306

Managing ecosystems for predictable outcomes may backfire
2015-10-08

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.
 

2016 Mäler Scholarship in Environmental Economics
2015-10-06

The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics  is pleased to announce a new round of the Mäler Scholar competition. 
 
The institute created the Mäler Scholarship in 2009, in honor of Professor Karl-Göran Mäler’s long-standing contributions to environmental economics around the world. The scholarship is intended for early-career researchers in environmental economics from developing regions of the world who already have a PhD or are currently enrolled in a PhD program and will finish within 1-2 years. Preference is given to researchers affiliated with four regional environmental economics networks—CEEPA, EEPSEA, LACEEP, and SANDEE—and the EfD centers. Others are welcome to apply. For information on past recipients, click here.
 
The scholarship allows researchers to spend up to 6 months at the institute developing new projects in collaboration with Beijer researchers.  The research focus of the applicant during the stay should relate closely to at least one of the Beijer Institute’s research programs. We particularly encourage applicants willing to use empirical methods to study and quantify linkages between ecosystem dynamics like regime shifts and economics in their home countries.
 
The institute is now accepting applications from researchers who are interested in spending up to 6 months at the institute during January 2016– June 2016 or August 2016 – December 2016. Deadline is 30 October.
 
Information on how to apply is found here

Nudges: The new black in environmental policy?
2015-09-10

Nudging – a collection of behaviour change techniques – is increasingly attracting the interest of researchers, policy makers and the media. However, despite all this attention, it is not particularly clear to many what exactly nudging is, what it is not and why nudges can (sometimes) be so effective in changing our behaviour. To make the issues clearer, Therese Lindahl and Britt Stikvoort wrote a report exploring them.
 
The report was written for the Swedish think tank Fores and was launched in June 2015. It sought to answer the following questions: Are there enough sound scientific grounds for nudging today on which policy makers can base their policies? What really is the current state of the art in nudging research, what lessons can we learn from these past experiences and what are the biggest caveats in our current knowledge about nudging?
 
The report was presented by Therese Lindahl and discussed by a panel that included Per Bolund, Minister of Financial Markets and Consumer Affairs, during the Swedish policy week in Almedalen, Visby in July 2015. Since then it has received a lot of attention from policy makers and the media
 
Download the report in Swedish and English