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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.
.
"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 Seawin 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.

Read more at Seawin webpage

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.

 

Clues for tipping from vicious to virtuous behaviour identified
2016-10-10

A new analysis shows that social norms can cross tipping points faster if new behaviour is difficult for others to ignore. The results have implications for policy design to protect the environment and reduce pollution, for example. 
 
 
Group behaviour in societies tends to change slowly, sometimes over many generations, even when our habits are killing us. If your friends, family and colleagues smoke, the chances are higher that you smoke too. 
 
In the journal Science a team of economists, psychologists and ecologists analysed unexpected and rapid changes in social norms that buck this trend. These include rapid changes in average family size, smoking indoors, foot binding in China, or littering the streets. Unravelling the causes of such tipping points might help find solutions for some of the world’s biggest challenges, for example, climate change, biodiversity loss and gender equality.
 
Lead author and chair of the Beijer board, Karine Nyborg from the University of Oslo says, “Humans are social animals and we have good reasons to coordinate our behaviour with others. But social norms can create vicious and virtuous cycles.”
 
The interdisciplinary group of authors, who met at the annual Askö meeting 2015, organized by the Beijer Institute, applied the concept of tipping-points to how groups conform to one behaviour, then shift rapidly to a new norm. 
 
 “Indoor smoking and foot-binding are examples of vicious cycles. If everyone prefers to behave like others, for social, economic, political or practical reasons, our expectations could be self-fulfilling and the result can be harmful to society as a whole. Virtuous cycles behave in the same way, promoting good habits and healthy lifestyles," says co-author Therese Lindahl, Beijer Institute economist.
 
 Anti-smoking laws in Norway, Sweden, the UK and elsewhere helped trigger a change in social norms almost overnight, say the authors. Although formal enforcement was limited, smokers began expecting social sanctions and started to go outside to smoke, even in unregulated areas like private homes. 
 
“Very soon smoking indoors became a social taboo,” says Nyborg. If the smoking ban were removed, the new norm would in all likelihood remain. But the paper points out that Greece’s smoking ban, introduced in 2010, failed, possibly due to people’s low expectations that the new rules would affect social disapproval of indoors smoking. 
“Virtuous and virtuous cycles arise when, taking all factors into account, individuals tend to want to behave like most others”, the authors say
 
If a behaviour is easy for neighbours, friends, family and colleagues to observe, social approval and disapproval can sometimes sustain socially beneficial behaviours. The researchers use kerbside recycling as an example. Harmful pollution such as carbon dioxide, whether individual or from companies, is largely invisible. Similarly it is difficult to know if others are misusing antibiotics. If behaviour is out of sight, it is less likely to be affected by social approval and disapproval.
“A potentially powerful role of policy is to provide reasons for people to change their expectations about the behaviour of others,” they conclude. 
 
 
Reference: Nyborg, K., Anderies, J. M., Dannenberg, A., Lindahl, T., Schill, C., Schlüter, M., W. N. Adger, K. J. Arrow, S. Barrett, S. Carpenter, F. S. Chapin III, A-S. Crépin, G. Daily, P. Ehrlich, C. Folke, W. Jager, N. Kautsky, S. A. Levin, O. J. Madsen, S. Polasky, M. Scheffer, B. Walker, E. U. Weber, J. Wilen, A. Xepapadeas, A. de Zeeuw (2016).  Social norms as Solutions. Science Vol. 354, Issue 6308, pp. 42-43 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf8317
 
 
 

 

 
 

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

Beijer Institute Carl Folke praised for outstanding achievments for the environment.
2016-09-08

Front photo shows: Anders Wall,  head of the Beijer Foundation, Christina Moberg, President of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Carl Folke and Michael Meadows, IGU general secretary

Professor Carl Folke has been awarded the Planet and Humanity Medal, the International Geographical Union's (IGU) most prestigious award, which is given to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to environmental issues. Previous recipients have included Al Gore, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Michail Gorbachev 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.

Carl Folke is a professor in natural resource management and one of the world's most cited scientists. In his research, he seeks a deeper understanding of the interaction between ecological systems and social and economic development, which can help us identify pathwaus towards a sustainable future for humanity. At the Beijer Institute and the Stockholm Resilience Centre, he has led transdisciplinary researchprogrammes where the interactionshave been studied and described with theoretical models and concepts such as natural capital, ecosystem services and ecological footprint. The results have been used in UN documents, EU decisions and the national measures in different countries, but also at the local level in municipalities and companies.

The medal is awarded by the IGU Secretary General Professor Michael Meadows at a ceremony at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Tuesday, 25 October.

Read Swedish press release here

Download pictures from the award ceremony here (available from 26 October)

Previous recipients of the International Geographical Union Planet and Humanity Medal

•Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norway, 1996
•Al Gore, USA, 1996
•C. Pierret, France, 2000
•M. Robinson, Ireland, 2000
•M. S. Swaminathan, India, 2000
•N. R. Mandela, South Africa, 2002
•M. Gorbachev, Russia, 2004
•Martti Ahtisaari, Finland, 2010
•Lester R. Brown, USA, 2012
 

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
 

Keystone actors shape marine ecosystems
2015-06-08

Only 13 corporations control 19-40% of the largest and most valuable stocks and 11-16 % of the global marine catch, according to new research published in the journal PLOS ONE, authored by researchers at the Beijer Institute, GEDB and Stockholm Resilience Centre. These "keystone" corporations of the global seafood industry critically shape the future of marine ecosystems.
 
The new study makes an analogy between the largest companies in seafood industry and keystone species in ecological communities. Keystone species in nature have a profound effect on the structure and function of the ecosystem and disproportionately determine the prevalence and activities of other species.
 
"The phenomenon of keystone actors is an increasingly important feature of our human-dominated world. Active leadership in sustainability initiatives by these corporations could result in a cascade through the entire seafood industry towards improved management of marine living resources and ecosystems," says lead author Henrik Österblom, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
 
"Increasing demand for seafood has contributed to a global fisheries crisis, with consequences for marine ecosystems around the world," Österblom adds. Existing analyses of global fisheries operations have, however, so far largely focused on the role of countries, rather than industry corporations.
 
A handful of dominating corporations
The study found that the average annual revenues of the 160 largest companies in 2012 exhibit a distinct keystone pattern, where the top 10% account for 38 % of total revenues. Among these, the authors analysed thirteen companies more in detail and found that they shape very large marine ecosystems around the world and are involved in both wild capture fisheries and aquaculture, including whitefish, tuna, salmon, shellfish, fishmeal, fish oil, and aqua feeds. Their combined annual revenues correspond to 18% of the global value of seafood production in 2012 (US$ 252 billion). This handful of corporations, represent only 0.5% of 2250 registered fishing and aquaculture companies worldwide.
 
Such keystone actors among corporations, the authors say, can be defined by the following characteristics: a) they dominate global production revenues and volumes within a particular sector, b) control globally relevant segments of production, c) connect ecosystems globally through subsidiaries, and d) influence global governance processes and institutions.
 
"Several of the fishing companies we investigated are larger than most nations in terms of their share of global catches. Our study reframes the responsibility for fishing in terms of transnational corporations, illustrating that they must be included into the equation if we are to solve the global sustainability crisis in marine ecosystems,” says co-author Jean-Baptiste Jouffray, Phd-student affiliated to all three institutions.
 
 
Österblom, H., Jouffray, J-B., Folke, C., Crona, B., Troell, M., Merrie, A., and Rockström, J. 2015. Transnational corporations as ‘keystone actors’ in marine ecosystems. PLOS ONE, http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0127533
 

Beijer Institute research visualised in art-science exhibition
2015-04-13

Pressrelease 2015-04-14

”The biosphere is the thin outer layer of this planet in which life exists. We humans are part of the biosphere and completely dependent on the air, the oceans, the forests and all other ecological systems in order to survive and thrive.” So begins the text interpreted by artist Jesper Waldersten in the exhibition Patterns of the Biosphere at the classical Swedish design company Svenskt Tenn. It is also the exhibition's overarching message and the basis for all research at the Beijer Institute.

-Regardless of whether one likes nature or not, we are all totally dependent on the biosphere for our own welfare, says Carl Folke, Director of the Beijer Institute. Environmental concern is today seen by many as an obstacle to development, but the conflict between economic development and ecological sustainability is really just a mental construct.

The Swedish interior design company Svenskt Tenn's profit goes via the Kjell and Märta Beijer Foundation to the support of research conducted at the Beijer Institute. In an exhibition opening 15 April, the institute’s research on the interaction between man and the biosphere is visualised. 

“Virtually all human activity has effects on the biosphere one way or the other. We want to help widen this knowledge and its importance for our future and the future of the planet, and also clarify the fact that all Svenskt Tenn's customers are contributing to important research in this field,” says Maria Veerasamy, CEO of Svenskt Tenn. 

 

Research at the Beijer Institute include developing new models of thinking and a terminology suited to our times. The Institute has been part of introducing and establishing the concepts "natural capital", "ecosystem services" and "ecological footprint". The results of the Institute's research are being picked up and put into practice at different levels throughout the world, for example in UN documents, EU decisions and national measures in different countries, but also at the local level in municipalities and companies.

A new approach to nature, the biosphere we live in, is the key to a more sustainable society. One way to accomplish this is to explain the world from a transdisciplinary holistic approach, applied by the Beijer Institute.

- Previously, both science and policy focused on one thing at a time. It is only now we begin to grasp the whole picture and understand the scale of the challenges. No place on Earth is unaffected by man and there is no human being that does not depend on the biosphere, says Carl Folke. He continues:

- The meeting between art and science makes it possible to reach people on a more emotional level than scientists normally have access to. We are very happy to have the opportunity to create this exhibition in collaboration with Svenskt Tenn and that it can be displayed in this unique environment.

The exhibition is free of charge and runs from April 15 through to June 15, 2015 in the Svenskt Tenn store in Stockholm.

Read more in the exhibition broschure: English Swedish

For more information, contact

Agneta Sundin, communication officer, the Beijer Institute +46 8-673 95 38 or agneta.sundin@beijer.kva.se,

Vicky Nordh, Marketing Assistant, Svenskt Tenn: +46 8-670 16 23 or vicky.nordh@svenskttenn.se

Thommy Bindefeld, Marketing Director, Svenskt Tenn: +46 8 670 16 02 or thommy.bindefeld@svenskttenn.se

Beijer Institute researchers receive funding from the Ragnar Söderberg Foundation
2015-04-09

Gustav Engström and Chandra Kiran have together with Johan Gars of the Academy programme Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere (GEDB), received five million Swedish kronor (SEK) in project funding from the Ragnar Söderberg Foundation, to investigate the links between the macroeconomy and biophysical processes. One objective is to study the importance these links have for the use of economic policy instruments in relation to global environmental problems.
 
In addition to this research group, the Ragnar Söderberg Foundation has granted five million each to three other project groups in economics at Uppsala University, Stockholm School of Economics and Lund University.
 
“The four research groups to receive funding this year have all clearly demonstrated how increased added value can arise through close co-operation. The interdisciplinary content is also apparent in all four groups” said Kjell Blückert, MD of the Ragnar Söderberg Foundation.  "The Ragnar Söderberg Foundation targets projects by groups rather than by single researchers. We believe in the importance of what are known as microenvironments: close collaborations in a small, tightly knit group with many external contact interfaces."
 
About the research project 
This research project Global biophysical processes in climate-economics-modelling: Implications for economic policy instruments aims to study the links between the macroeconomy and the biophysical processes which at global level regulate the living environments on Earth. During the past century, the scope of human activity has greatly increased, as has the associated impact on a number of global biophysical processes.
 
An overarching perspective is important since many sectors in the global macroeconomy are affected by, and affect, biophysical processes. Obvious examples of such sectors are food production and energy.
 
The researchers want to create an overall picture of how different biophysical processes relate to each other and interact with the socio-economy in general. 
 
“We are very grateful for this funding, which will allow us to investigate how these processes are related”, said Gustav Engström. “Economic policy instruments today are often skewed towards a certain problem and can therefore have unexpected consequences within other sectors.  We hope that in the long run, our research can help improve the use of economic policy instruments to handle various global environmental problems at the same time, including climate change”.   
 
 
 

Global icons, local threats
2015-04-08

Without better local management, the world’s most iconic ecosystems are at risk of collapse under climate change, says an international team of researchers in study recently published in Science.
 
Protecting places of global environmental importance such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Amazon rainforest from climate change will require reducing the other pressures they face, for example overfishing, fertilizer pollution or land clearing.
 
The team of researchers warns that localised issues, such as declining water quality from nutrient pollution or deforestation, can exacerbate the effects of climatic extremes, such as heat waves and droughts. This reduces the ability of ecosystems to cope with the impacts of climate change.
 
"Managing local ecosystems can help maintain and enhance their resilience in the face of global changes. It is often easier to implement incentives for stewardship of the biosphere in local commons than in global commons, where the uncertainty is lower, and where positive results of management may be more visible," says Beijer Institute Director Carl Folke, one of the study’s co-authors.
 
Unique World Heritage Sites
The authors examined three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Spain’s Doñana wetlands, the Amazon rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. While many ecosystems are crucial to their local people, these ecosystems also have a global importance—hence their designation as World Heritage Sites. For instance, the Amazon rainforest is a globally important climate regulator.
 
Like coral reefs, rainforests and wetlands around the world, these sites are all under increasing pressure from both climate change and local threats.
For example, rising temperatures and severe dry spells threaten the Amazon rainforest and, in combination with deforestation, could turn the ecosystem into a drier, fire-prone and species-poor woodland. Curtailing deforestation and canopy damage from logging and quickening forest regeneration could protect the forest from fire, maintain regional rainfall and thus prevent a drastic ecosystem transformation.
 
"All three examples play a critical role in maintaining global biodiversity. If these systems collapse, it could mean the irreversible extinction of species," says Beijer Fellow Marten Scheffer, the study’s lead author. He is Chair of the Department of Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management at the Netherlands' Wageningen University.
 
No excuse - act locally
The authors suggest their evidence places responsibility on governments and society to manage local threats to iconic ecosystems, and such efforts will complement the growing momentum to control global greenhouse gases. Yet, in the three cases they examined, they found local governance trends are worrisome.
 
According to co-author Scott Barrett, the problem is one of incentives.
 
"These ecosystems are of value to the whole world, not only to the countries that have jurisdiction over them. It may be necessary for other countries to bring pressure to bear on these ‘host’ countries or to offer them assistance, to ensure that these iconic ecosystems are protected for the benefit of all of humanity," says Barrett, who is a professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and former chairman of the Beijer Institute Board.
 
Above all, the paper raises awareness of the great opportunities for enhanced local action.
"Local management options are well understood and not too expensive. So there is really no excuse for countries to let this slip away, especially when it comes to ecosystems that are of vital importance for maintaining global biodiversity," concludes Scheffer.
 
 
Scheffer, M., Barrett, S., Carpenter, S.R., Folke, C., Green, A.J., Holmgren, M., Hughes, T.P., Kosten, S., va de Leemput, I.A., Nepstad, D.C., van Nes, E. H., Peeters, E.T.H.M., and Brian Walker. Creating a safe operating space for iconic ecosystems, Science 2015.
 

Carl Folke honorary doctor in Belgium
2015-02-23

Each year as part of its Patron Saint's Day celebrations, the Belgiums largest university, KU Leuven, recognises individuals for exceptional scientific, societal or cultural achievement. One of the individuals who received this year's honorary doctorates, on 2 February, was Beijer Institute Director Carl Folke.
 
The others are Philippe Claudel (multifaceted artist and humanist), Rakesh Jain (engineer and cancer research pioneer), Brainard Guy Peters (leading political scientist), and Chilean president Michelle Bachelet (who will receive her honorary doctorate later this year).
 
In a press release announcing the event Carl Folke's research on the resilience of integrated social-ecological systems is recognised as being both exceptional and novel:
 
"Folke's work adds a new dimension to our thinking on sustainability: he conceives of societies as living systems that are continually changing in interaction with their biophysical surroundings. His research on the resilience of these ecosystems is particularly pertinent for policy frameworks aimed at addressing climate change."
 
 

Planetary Boundaries 2.0 – new and improved
2015-01-19

Four of nine planetary boundaries have now been crossed as a result of human activity, says an international team of 18 researchers, among them Beijer Institute Director Carl Folke and colleagues from Stockholm Resilience Centre, in the journal Science (16 January 2015). The four are: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change, altered biogeochemical cycles (phosphorus and nitrogen).
 
Two of these, climate change and biosphere integrity, are what the scientists call “core boundaries”. Significantly altering either of these “core boundaries” would “drive the Earth System into a new state”.
 
“Transgressing a boundary increases the risk that human activities could inadvertently drive the Earth System into a much less hospitable state, damaging efforts to reduce poverty and leading to a deterioration of human wellbeing in many parts of the world, including wealthy countries,” says Lead author, Professor Will Steffen, researcher at Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Australian National University, Canberra. “In this new analysis we have improved our quantification of where these risks lie.” 
 
What’s new?
The new paper is a development of the Planetary Boundaries concept, which was first published in 2009, identifying nine global priorities relating to human-induced changes to the environment. The science shows that these nine processes and systems regulate the resilience of the Earth System – the interactions of land, ocean, atmosphere and life that together provide conditions upon which our societies depend.
 
The research builds on a large number of scientific publications critically assessing and improving the planetary boundaries research since its original publication. It confirms the original set of boundaries and provides updated analysis and quantification for several of them, including phosphorus and nitrogen cycles, land-system change, freshwater use and biosphere integrity.
 
The silver lining
It may seem that the paper puts forward a gloomy message. However, the authors also emphasise the other side of it. This knowledge provides us with a great opportunity to turn things around. 
 
“Planetary Boundaries illustrate that humanity is an embedded part of the biosphere and need to reconnect development to biosphere resilience and the safe operating space for humanity,” says Carl Folke, Director of the Beijer Institute and Science Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre.
 
Johan Rockström, co-author and Stockholm Resilience Centre Director, will present the new findings at the World Economic Forum in Davos 21-24 January. 
 
“It is obvious that different societies over time have contributed very differently to the current state of the earth. The world has a tremendous opportunity this year to address global risks, and do it more equitably. In September, nations will agree the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. With the right ambition, this could create the conditions for long-term human prosperity within planetary boundaries,” Rockström says. 
 
 
 
 
Reference:
Steffen et al. 2015. Planetary Boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. Science, January 2015.
DOI: 10.1126/science.1259855
 

Science article: How to make China's aquaculture more sustainable
2015-01-09

China's booming aquaculture industry relies increasingly on fishmeal made from wild-caught fish. This practice risks depleting wild fish stocks and strains fragile ocean ecosystems, but a new study in Science offers a more sustainable path. The study by a research team led by Stanford University and including Beijer Institute researcher Max Troell and colleagues from Stockholm Resilience Centre, offers the clearest picture to date of China’s enormous impact on wild fisheries. It also presents a more sustainable alternative to the current practice of using wild-caught fish to feed farm-raised fish.
 
One-third of global supply
China is the world's leading producer, consumer and processor of fish, contributing one-third of the global supply. China's fish production has tripled in the past 20 years, and about three-quarters of its supply now comes from fish farms.
 
"Yet the industry still places pressure on wild fisheries through its demand for fishmeal and fish oil made from wild-caught species” says Max Troell, co-author of the study. "How China develops its aquaculture and aquafeed sector can therefore tip the balance of global seafood availability," he continues.
 
Fishing in the coastal waters of China is poorly regulated and often indiscriminate. The result is large volumes of assorted "trash fish" – species that are unfit for human consumption – that end up in animal feeds, including in fishmeal that is fed to farm-raised fish. Many of the stocks of wild fish used for feeds have been fully exploited and many of those targeted in mixed fisheries overexploited, and reducing the demand for them can help protect fragile ocean ecosystems.
 
"There is a clear opportunity for positive change, but the economic and regulatory incentives for such change are not yet in place," says Rosamond Naylor, Stanford Professor and member of the Beijer Institute board.
 
Seafood waste can replace wild fish
One promising solution is to recycle the waste by-products from seafood processing plants across China. This waste, which can be 30 to 70 percent of the incoming volume of fish, is often discarded or discharged into nearby waters.The team's analysis shows that these processing wastes could satisfy between half and two-thirds of the current volume of fishmeal used by Chinese fish farmers, replacing much of the wild fish currently used in feeds.
 
Quality and food safety are two potential barriers to replacing wild-caught fish with fish processing wastes. The waste is lower in protein than wild-caught fish, but this can be overcome by adding plant-based protein sources to the fishmeal, like algae or ethanol yeast. The use of processing waste also raises concerns about contamination and disease transmission, which the researchers say can be addressed through tighter regulations and better research on the safety risks.
 
China's path ahead is crucial
"It's time to make serious decisions about managing and protecting ocean fisheries, and China will play a pivotal role in this process," says Rosamond Naylor. 
 
"This is a critical juncture for China," concludes lead author Dr. Ling Cao, Stanford University. "If the country makes proactive reforms to its aquaculture sector, like using fish-processing wastes instead of wild fish, and generally reducing the amount of fishmeal in aquafeeds, it can greatly improve the sustainability of the industry. If not, the consequences for the entire global seafood supply chain are going to be really serious."
 
 
Full reference:
Ling Cao, L., R. Naylor, P. Henriksson, D. Leadbitter, M. Metian, M. Troell, W. Zhang. 2015. China's aquaculture and the world's wild fisheries. Science. 347 (6218): 133-135. DOI:10.1126/science.1260149