Trees

A week for global sustainability – two conferences in Stockholm
2017-08-21

For one week, Stockholm is the capital of global sustainability. Over 1000 experts are meeting for two major conferences. Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), The Beijer institute and Resilience Alliance are organisers of the conference Resilience 2017 – Resilience Frontiers for Global Sustainability 21-23 August.  The conferences focus on plausible positive futures for people and planet. It will look back on the scientific progress made since the previous conference in 2014 and set out exciting future directions for research. 
Resilience science is one of the most rapidly expanding areas of research and the Stockholm Resilience Centre, of which the Beijer Institute is a founding member, has become a global hub of knowledge, ten years from its inauguration.
 
Back to back the 7th International Conference on Sustainability Science takes place in Stockholm 24-27 August will take place, organised by Future Earth, SRC and IR3S. It focuses on the research agenda of Future Earth, a major international research programme to advance global sustainability science.  
 
 
Conference highlights include:
 
Positive futures for the planet: researchers will present new ways for envisioning the future and understanding how societies can transform sustainably using computer modelling, scenarios, games and narratives.  
A three-decade analysis of the links between armed conflicts globally, existing ethnic tensions within countries, and droughts and heatwaves and other climate factors. The researchers say, “about 23% of conflict outbreaks in ethnically highly fractionalized countries robustly coincide with climatic calamities.” (Jonathan Donges, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany and Stockholm Resilience Centre.)
Cold Turkey: after decades of overuse, dangerous bacteria are evolving to beat our strongest antibiotics. This is one of the most severe global threats facing our species. Stricter regulations on antibiotic use plus global awareness campaigns are essential to protect this essential global commons, say researchers. (Peter Søgaard Jørgensen, GEDB and Stockholm Resilience Centre )
Future climate-proofing New York. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York City. About 130 square kilometres of the city went under water affecting 443,000 New Yorkers and killing 44.  Five years on, what have we learnt about how a mega city responds to a climate catastrophe? And will the new strategy be enough to increase resilience and reduce future risk? (Timon McPhearson, New School, NY and Stockholm Resilience Centre.)
Can warm-water corals reefs survive in the 21st century? This is an open question. Researchers are exploring the safe limits of the world’s reefs and how to make them more resilient to the combined threats of rising temperatures, ocean acidification, pollution and overfishing. (Albert Norström, Stockholm Resilience Centre)
SDG Labs. On 24 August, the outcomes of a series of Sustainable Development Goals Labs will be presented. The labs aim to solve a particular challenge, for example sustainable consumption and production, new financial systems for a sustainable planet, and how design influences behaviour. (Owen Gaffney, Stockholm Resilience Centre and Future Earth.)
 
 
 
 

Factors limiting the expansion of ocean marine aquaculture
2017-08-21

In a comment in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution Beijer Institute researchers elaborate on the potential for future marine aquaculture development. They comment on research findings by Gentry et al., (published in same volume) that shows the existence of vast ocean areas suitable for aquacultureand that appropriation of only a small fraction of this space could potentially solve the world’s food challenge, at least partially.
 
“The modelling work by Gentry et al. is comprehensive and indicate what species that are possible to farm and where in coastal off-shore waters” says the lead author Max Troell. “However, the reason that the level of aquaculture production in such waters currently is low, is not due to space limitation, an expansion will be constrained by other factors.”
 
Troell and colleaugues explain that feed availability and feed costs will prevent further expansions of mariculture long before any ocean space limitations are reached. Current aquaculture production of fish from off-shore ocean systems is still insignificant but is dominated by species such as salmon, groupers, barramundi and cobia, which all require high-quality protein feeds based on fish resources and increasingly agriculture crops, such as soy. The potential for marine aquaculture is also affected by climate change both by temperature increases and ocean acidification, among other things. Considering existing and emerging challenges facing food production on land the incentives for expansion of food production into the oceans is large. However, it is important to acknowledge that aquaculture production through resource needs is connected to both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, they claim.
 
“The big challenges facing near-term expansion of the aquaculture sector lie in the development of sustainable feeds, and in better understanding how large-scale ocean farming systems interact with ecosystems and human well-being” says co-author Malin Jonell, Stockholm Resilience Centre. 
 
“Seafood can play a particularly important role for the future food portfolio, not only because its health benefits but also because many aquaculture species and systems can generate smaller environmental footprint compared to land animal farming” adds Beijer Institute co-author Patrik Henriksson.
 
reference: Troell, M., M. Jonell and P. Henriksson. 2017. Ocean space for seafood. Nature Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0304-6
 

Carl Folke recognised by US National Academy of Sciences
2017-05-03

Beijer Institute Director Carl Folke was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, 2 May. Members are elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Membership is a widely accepted mark of excellence in science and is considered one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive.

"I am happily surprised and deeply honoured to have become part of such a distinguished Academy with great scientists and fantastic people", was Carl Folke's reaction after receiving the news.

The NAS membership now totals approximately 2,290 and 475 foreign associates, of whom approximately 200 have received Nobel prizes.

Carl Folke, who is also science director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences since 2002 and 2016 he received the Planet and Humanity Medal, the International Geographical Union's (IGU) most prestigious award.

Read more abot NAS membership here

List of new members here

Beijer Fellow Kenneth Arrow has passed away
2017-02-24

Long standing Beijer Fellow, Economics Laureate Kenneth Arrow died in his home in California on the 21 February at the age of 95.
 
Ken Arrow, a world renowned scholar in economic theory, was a long standing collaborator of the Beijer Institute. He took part in research programmes, in capacity building efforts in developing countries and was a regular participant of the Askö meetings, many of them resulting in joint scientific articles. Beijer Institute director Carl Folke was saddened to receive the news about his death:
 
“Ken Arrow was great source of inspiration for so many and such a wonderful person; humble, engaged, wise, brilliant, curious, respectful, caring. What a privilege to have known such a remarkable human being. Ken has been with us at the Beijer since the start and participated in 16 Askö meetings, the first one in 1994 and the latest in 2016. It was wonderful to have him at the 25-years celebration in September.”
 
Ken Arrow is by many of his peers considered the most influential economist of his generation and as such he has played an immense role for the Beijer Institute. For that and for his personal qualities as a human being, he will be remembered with much warmth here at the Beijer Institute.
 
In September 2009, Ken Arrow held a Wisdom seminar here at the Academy, click here to see it. Unfortunately the picture quality is poor but the sound is fine and Ken gives a remarkable account of his long life and career, beginning with his experiences of the great depression.
 
Read more about Ken Arrows work and impact  in Stanford University’s obituary here. 
 
 

 

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.