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Funding for three new research projects

The Beijer Institute has recently been granted funding for three projects by from the Swedish Research Council for sustainable development, Formas, and more specifically, Beijer researcher Caroline Schill who is project leader for all three projects.

Understanding a new reality for small-scale fisheries

Caroline Schill and Therese Lindahl, together with colleagues Nanda Wijermans and Maja Schlüter at Stockholm Resilience Centre has received a grant for a project that will identify critical multi-level processes for sustainable small-scale fisheries. These fisheries are often referred to as traditional, artisanal, low-tech, labour intensive, low capital operations that contribute about 50% to the global fish catch and jobs for millions of people. They are vulnerable to climate change effects, e.g. changes in abundance, variability and predictability of fish stocks.

The ability of fishers to deal with this new situation will crucially depend on the capacity of fishers to adapt individually and collectively, which in turn is affected by how fishers perceive this new situation individually and collectively.

However, little is known about the interplay between cooperation and sustainable resource use in this new situation. To study these interactions holistically, the research team will use agent-based modelling to represent, simulate and analyse the role and effect of individual and situational heterogeneity on multiple levels.

The new normal in the Arctic

Together with Simon West at the Resilience Centre, Caroline Schill also recieved funding for a project called 'Living with the 'new normal': exploring human responses to abrupt environmental change in the Arctic using behavioural and interpretive social science'.

The project brings together behavioural and interpretive social science to explore, together with Alaskan Inuit communities, their responses to a changing Arctic. Schill and West will first use participatory photography to enable participants to identify the environmental changes that matter most to them.

"Building on that knowledge, we will design behavioural economic experiments to study the effects of different scenarios of change on actual behaviour. Through this approach, we aim to empower communities to reflect, share experiences and devise strategies to live with change and uncertainty," they explain.

Also involved in this project is Tracie Curry, University of Alaska Fairbanks, like Caroline Schill a member of the second Beijer Young Scholars group.

Inequality of the Biosphere

This second Beijer Young Scholars group was given a SEK 2 million planning grant, to continue their exploratoion of the linkages between social inequality and changes in the environment, read more here. Starting in December 2018It will allow them in the upcoming 12 months to work towards a long-term research agenda around trade-offs, synergies and interactions between the SDGs Reduced Inequalities, Zero Hunger, Climate Action, and Life Below Water and on Land (SDGs 10, 2, 13, 14, and 15). In particular, with the help of a set of pre-studies (building on some of the pathways discovered in the paper) and stakeholder workshops, the group will characterise synergies and trade-offs and identify research questions to inform a large future research proposal. 

Moreover, Beijer Institute partners Stockholm Resilience Centre and Global Economic and Dynamics and the Biosphere (GEDB), at the same time received several major research grants, read more about the projects here.

The economics of resilience

The economics of resilience has been studied for the past few decades. Now, a review paper co-authored by Beijer researchers Li Chuan-Zhong (professor at Uppsala university), Anne-Sophie Crépin and Carl Folke, offers a summary of this body of work.

More specifically, the paper, published in the International Review of Environmental Resource Economics, looks at resilience and economic models, theories, and cases, with special reference to social-ecological systems and regime shifts, the latter referring to large, abrupt, persistent changes to a system.

Crépin explains, “We address the basic sciences of regime shifts and resilience in different settings linked to empirical cases, and review the related economic models. In particular, we discuss models to assess market outcomes when thresholds exist and are known and particular characteristics of such systems when they are optimally managed.”

Models of interest

The paper starts off with a review of three categories of economic models related to resilience thinking.

The first category reviewed were deterministic models of central and cooperative decisions. Deterministic models do not account for any randomness in the system, and will always produce the same output if initiating from the same starting point. In economics and resilience literature, these models focused on optimization. An example is whether it would be better for a community to have a clear lake providing more fisheries amenities by restricting agricultural activities on the shore or promote agriculture but accept that the lake would undergo a regime shift.

The second category focused on situations with multiple independent resource users. In such situation each resource user faces strategic uncertainty because they do not know what other users will do. This could either lead to more or less exploitation depending on users’ strategies.

The third type of models was stochastic, or models that account for random variability in the resource itself. The authors say that while these types of models have been used in economics and resilience literature as in reality, end results are often unpredictable no matter how much information is known at the start.

In the review, the authors highlight that, “economic theory has substantially advanced the deterministic and stochastic models of regime shifts linked to resilience.” For example, fishers can influence the risk of a regime shift by acting precautionary. Such behavior could hinder the system from undergoing a shift to a permanently much lower capacity to grow a fish stock. However, model recommendations about whether or not to act precautionary seem extremely sensitive to the assumptions made and more research is needed on that topic.

However, Carl Folke notes that urgent unsolved problems remain. “These involve situations when crossing thresholds imply life-threatening situations at the global scale. In particular, the great acceleration and the risks this has brought for the global environmental security should be better studied.”

Valuing resilience

The review also demonstrates three different aspects of resilience in different systems.

First, biodiversity has been demonstrated to play a role in ecosystem resilience. As Crépin elaborates, “In the environmental and resource economics literature several approaches have been used to measure and value biodiversity.”

From rainfall models to measuring biodiversity levels, biodiversity has been shown to be valuable when it comes to ecosystem resilience.

Second, resilience is known to act as insurance against a shock, such as a natural disaster or civil upheaving, in the economics-resilience literature. However, this was not always the case.

As Folke explains, “Although resilience services and their value as insurance are known to be positively correlated, the exact relationship between them remained less obvious in the earlier literature.”

Finally, the authors reviewed resilience as a “stock.” What the authors mean by this is that resilience is the characteristic of a system to withstand change, such as a regime shift. However, across economic- resilience literature, although resilience has become a popular concept in the literature, few attempts have been made for quantitative measurement.

Putting it into practice

Finally, the authors examine how all of this knowledge generated is applicable in real world. Specifically, they turn to resilience assessments, and how these have informed the management of resilience and sustainability analyses.

While the authors draw a number of links between resilience and economic theory, as well as highlight a number of cases with this focus, they argue that links between these two fields have not been systematically established.

As Crépin explains, “There is substantial potential for economic theory to learn from resilience thinking and vice versa. For example, there is substantial potential for economic theory to provide novel insights to resilience thinking by focusing on the impacts of individual incentives, collective action, and economic policies in a more applied resilience context. This in turn can help resilience thinking better understand how economic processes work in a resilience context.”

Furthermore, Crépin adds, “Advances in resilience measurement and valuation studies, could be useful for improved cost–benefit analysis, dynamic welfare analysis, and practical policymaking.”

In other words, advancements in economics-resilience literature could help us improve policy tools. It could also help us improve our understanding of how resilience can help us in the real world overall.

Li, C.Z., Crépin, A.S. and Folke, C., 2018. The Economics of Resilience. International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, 11(4), pp.309-353.


Connecting the dots between social inequalities and environmental change

Rising inequalities and accelerating environmental change are two of the most significant challenges of the twenty-first century. But how are they linked? 
A new study in the journal Annual Review of Environment and Resources presents a literature review of the linkages between social inequality and changes in the environment. It is an outcome of the Beijer Young Scholars programme which consists of a interdisciplinary group of 19 early career scholars from around the world, including researchers at the Beijer Institute and its partner Stockholm Resilience Centre.
Their study shows that most research is one-directional, i.e. focusing on the specific effects of a social inequality on the environment, and fails to take into account a more complex understanding of how inequality and the biosphere interact with each other. 
"Previous analyses have mainly focused on economic inequality and its effect on a specific environmental variable such as resource degradation or pollution, often using national-level data," explains lead author Maike Hamann, University of Minnesota.
“However, inequality is much more than financial differences between the rich and the poor, it includes the whole spectrum of society, highlighting differences between individuals or groups of people in relation to gender,  or ethnicity for instance”, says co-author Caroline Schill, the Beijer Institute. “Moreover, this study also looks at the way drastic and gradual changes in the environment affect inequality in different ways”, she adds.
Interactions between inequality and the biosphere in social-ecological systems.
The biosphere is naturally unequal. Not all places on Earth are equally endowed with access to energy resources, freshwater reserves or appropriate conditions for large-scale agricultural production. That has led to an inequality of opportunities for societal development and economic expansion in different parts of the globe. However, natural disasters such as storms, floods, droughts and epidemics tend to hit low-income communities the hardest, wherever they are, as exemplified by the hurricane Katrina 2005 and the 2014-15 West Africa Ebola epidemic. 
More gradual environmental change can also have a strong impact. Take fisheries, for example. Many of the world’s least developed countries that are most vulnerable to impacts of climate change are also heavily reliant on seafood and marine resources. In these countries, climate change is likely to reinforce economic hardship and hamper development and poverty alleviation. It may also exacerbate inequalities on a local level.
How inequality affects the environment
The authors of the study argue that “subjective inequality”, an individual’s perception of existing inequalities and beliefs about what is just and fair, can be a significant driver for how someone behaves towards the environment. For example, perceptions of inequality, fairness and even jealousy have played an important role in the success or failure of marine protected areas. If people feel they have been treated unfair in getting access to a marine protected area, jealousy may lead some to encroach or even sabotage it, even if they were positive to creating it in the first place.
In many parts of the world, aspirations to achieve a higher living standard and status lead to behavioural changes, such as an increase in meat consumption. This, in turn, has significant impacts on land use and the conversion of natural habitat to pastures for livestock.
Collaboration and collective action are one of the ways in which shared natural resources can be sustainably managed. But if there is inequality within the group that is managing a shared resource, this may lead to an erosion of trust, less cooperation, and the unsustainable use of the resource.
Finally, market concentration can cause inequality which could benefit or harm a natural resource. The global seafood industry, where a small number of actors has a disproportionally strong influence on the management of the resources, is a fitting example. 
New funding for more research
With their study, the authors show that environmental change and inequality must be looked at in more depth.
Together with her co-authors, Caroline Schill calls for more research into these feedbacks, calling their work a “first step toward a more systemic, cross-scale and multidimensional understanding” of the interactions between inequality and the environment.
And to the great delight of the BYS group and the Beijer Institute, they have been awarded a SEK 2 million planning grant from the Swedish Research Council for sustainable development (Formas). With this grant they will be able to continue and deepen their fruitful inter-disciplinary collaborations with a specific focus on inequality and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Starting already in December 2018, it will allow them in the upcoming 12 months to work towards a long-term research agenda around trade-offs, synergies and interactions between the SDGs Reduced Inequalities, Zero Hunger, Climate Action, and Life Below Water and on Land (SDGs 10, 2, 13, 14, and 15). In particular, with the help of a set of pre-studies (building on some of the pathways discovered in the paper) and stakeholder workshops, the group will characterise synergies and trade-offs and identify research questions to inform a large future research proposal. 
The Beijer Young Scholars
The interdisciplinary group of authors is the second generation in the Beijer Young Scholars programme (BYS), established with the aim of creating an international network of young researchers and stimulating the emergence of new research pathways and modes of cooperation across disciplines to address global challenges. 
Throughout the three years of support from the Beijer Institute, the 19 PhD candidates and early career researchers in the BYS group embarked on an exploration of the potential links between inequality and the biosphere, in a series of three workshops held at the Academy and in the Stockholm Archipelago. Together they also organised a session at the Resilience 2017 conference in Stockholm, and the discussions with the audience were very valuable to the development of the study.
Conducting collaborative, integrative and interdisciplinary research is a time-consuming endeavor that is not always well recognized in the academic incentives system, but is crucial to advance science into deeper research questions. One important aim of the BYS programme is to facilitate and provide the space for such research.
 “Having the privilege to be part of the BYS program has been an inspiring and transformative experience, to not only broaden my research horizontally towards becoming an interdisciplinary scientist, but also distil deeper understanding of how different fields such as ecology, economics, geography, and political sciences are inherently connected. It has also reinforced my aspirations for continuing interdisciplinary collaborations that are essential for addressing contemporary wicked social environmental problems”, said Jiangxiao Qiu, University of Florida, after the workshop in June 2018. 


Smart Groth, a popular concept for sustainable cities lacks scientific proof

The Smart Growth concept has been hailed as a way to turn our increasingly urbanized planet into a compact, walkable and bicycle friendly one, where urban sprawl is halted because old land is used for new constructions. The concept is frequently endorsed by national and local policy makers. However, conclusive proof of its ability to deliver environmental benefits is lacking.
In a study published in the journal Ambio, Beijer Institute researchers Åsa Gren and Johan Colding, also affiliated with Stockholm Resilience Centre, and colleagues take a closer look at the Smart Growth concept and whether it delivers what it promises. The short answer is no.
Studies lack a broader perspective
In their review, the team, including colleagues from Chalmers University and Gävle University in Sweden, analysed the scientific literature on the concept and found that a surprisingly limited number of studies have actually examined the environmental rationales behind Smart Growth. In fact, 34 percent of the studies even presented negative consequences of applying a Smart Growth strategy, particularly for biodiversity.
The studies that do show positive outcomes are focusing on a limited number of environmental parameters, such as reduced C02 emissions due to less private transportation. However, even these studies lack a broader perspective, failing to take into account important aspects such as leisure travel, which lead author Åsa Gren and her colleagues warn could turn out to be a game changer.
“This leaves us as uninformed as before even about the environmental gains that a compact city structure offers in order to reduce CO2 emissions,” Gren explains.
There was also confusion about what Smart Growth actually stands for.
“We found that there is no generally agreed upon definition of Smart Growth, rather a broad number of description exists, varying around certain themes”, says Åsa Gren.
Their study reveals a variety of inconsistencies in how things are defined and measured. One example is population density, which describes how many people that live within an area. However, although appearing straight forward, this can be, and indeed is, measured in multiple ways in different studies, making comparisons very difficult.
Not debunking Smart Growth
Amid rapid urbanization, Gren and her colleagues are not arguing against the Smart Growth concept per se, but the authors consider it an “unfortunate time in history” that strong scientific knowledge and consensus is still lacking about the concept, considering the amount of cities being built. More research is needed, they argue.
Based on their review, the authors push for a research which includes three important issues:
Research must, to a greater degree, apply systems thinking in its understanding of urban processes
Making cities more resilient against for instance climate change effects must be a priority
Research must be founded in more advanced knowledge and consistent use of geospatial analysis
“The aim here is not to debunk Smart Growth but to argue for the need to set research on sustainable urban planning on firmer grounds,” co-author Johan Colding explains.
Gren, Å., Colding, J., Berghauser-Pont, M., Marcus, L. 2018. How smart is smart growth? Examining the environmental validation behind city compaction. Ambio DOI 10.1007/s13280-018-1087-y

How smart are smart cities?

The Smart City is by far the fastest growing concept in the current urban sustainability literature and has been embraced by many politicians and city planners as a way forward for creating more sustainable cities. It comprises an urban development approach for integrating information and communication (ICT) technology and the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) technology to digitally connect a city’s infrastructure and services, in order to better manage and control them.  This can include collecting data from citizens, monitoring and managing traffic and transportation systems, power plants and water supply networks, and using information systems in remotely diagnosing patients for medical treatment. The idea is that by enhancing the quality, performance and interactivity of urban services, resource consumption and costs can be reduced.
Concerns for resilience and security
In two articles published during the year, Beijer Institute researcher and programme director Johan Colding and colleagues assess the Smart City concept from a social-ecological resilience perspective.
In the first article, in Journal of Cleaner Production, the authors identify critical gaps in the thriving literature on Smart Cities and point out that these deserve greater attention. They argue that the literature on Smart Cities needs to better address issues of resilience and cyber security, including how Smart City solutions may affect the autonomy of urban governance, personal integrity and infrastructures that provide inhabitants with basic needs, such as food, energy and water.
As Johan Colding explains: 
“We are already seeing vast internet- and computer technology problems related to hacking, sabotage and terrorism that could harm large-scale critical infrastructure, such as electricity, hospitals and other basic services. However, the issue of security is largely absent from the literature.”
Connecting technologies – disconnecting to nature?
Another issue that deserves greater attention, according to the study, is how Smart City developments may change human-nature interactions, for instance whether they hinder or support children’s learning and psychological connection with nature. 
“Smart City policies may unintentionally further disconnect citizens from nature experiences. Hence, we argue that it is critical to move from a solely sociotechnological focus of the Smart City framework to a more biosociotechnical focus, integrating ecology and including the role of ecosystem services as technologies and promoting reconnection to the biosphere”, emphasises Johan Colding.
Enerqy effiency
In a second article, in Environment and Planning B, the authors call for a greater societal debate on smart cities, raising the question of whether, if carried too far, digitalisation could result in diminishing return on energy savings and create unmanageably complex cities. They predict that, as more people and things are connected by IoT, the complexity of urban systems will increase over time and they point out that throughout the history of human civilisation, increasing complexity has led to growth in energy consumption.
Finally, in a forthcoming article Johan Colding and colleagues elaborate on the role different kinds of disturbance play in the context of Smart City development. They indicate some critical features that developers and planners need to consider carefully and propose a set of policy recommendations for ensuring more resilient development of city digitalisation.
Colding, J. and S. Barthel. 2017. An urban ecology critique on the “Smart City” model. Journal of Cleaner Production 164:95-101.
Colding, J., M. Colding and S. Barthel. 2018. The smart city model: A new panacea for urban sustainability or unmanageable complexity? Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science. First online. 10.1177/2399808318763164.
Colding, J., M. Colding and S. Barthel. In preparation. The Smart City as an ecosystem: applying resilience thinking on the digital city.

Healthy fish, healthy people – reducing antimicrobial use in aquaculture

Global seafood provides almost 20% of all animal protein in diets and aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector worldwide. The intensification of fish and shrimp farming systems has been accompanied by increased use of antimicrobials (AMs), which are hazardous to both human health and the industry itself. In an attempt to reverse this trend, a study by Beijer Institute scientists, which is reported in Sustainability Science, identifies some key drivers behind the overuse in different sectors and regions, and suggests ways to reduce it. The good news is there is much room for improvement.
“One of the findings, which was most surprising, is that much of the overuse is due to pure lack of knowledge”, says lead author Patrik Henriksson. “This means there are multiple measures for reducing AM use that can be applied at different levels of the value chain.”
The dangers of overuse
Successful treatment with AMs constitutes the foundation of modern medicine and the spread of AMR bacteria has been classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the major threats to the human population in the twenty-first century. Today, the amount of AMs used for animals is much higher compared than that used to treat humans and even involves some AMs that are deemed critically important in human medicine.
While AM use in aquaculture is lower than that in meat production on land, in light of the expected rapid future growth in aquaculture (doubling by 2030), it is critical to come to terms with overuse. 
Underlying factors and regional measures
The study provides a systematic overview of reasons behind usage. In particular, six drivers are identified as key: vulnerability to bacterial disease (which varies between species and regions), easy access to AMs, poor disease diagnostic capacity, AMR (caused by overuse, triggering even more use), poor food safety regulations in target markets, and lack of certification.
Building knowledge around these can enable local governments to reduce AM use through farmer training, spatial planning, assistance with disease identification and stricter regulations, the study concludes.
“There is a lot to be gained from training farmers in correct diagnosis of disease, how to use AMs and the consequences of overuse”, Patrik Henriksson explains, “not to mention training in better hygiene and other measures to prevent pathogens entering farms or hatcheries in the first place, thereby reducing the risk of disease outbreak”. He points outs that the aquaculture industry largely consists of small-scale, sometimes uneducated, farmers who often overuse AMs in their production. 
National and international action also needed
Moreover, national governments and international organisations could assist by producing disease-free fish seed and vaccines, enforcing rigid monitoring of the quantity and quality of antimicrobials used by farmers, and minimising antimicrobial residues in farmed species and in the environment. 
“Lack of regulations in many low- and middle-income countries, or inadequate enforcement of existing regulations, has incentivised restrictions on AM residues in seafood imported to high income countries”, says study co-author Max Troell. While this is an important mechanism to limit AM use, it only applies to internationally traded products and leaves production aimed for domestic consumption largely unregulated. The authors conclude that a better solution would be to limit access to AMs nationally, for example by banning specifically harmful AMs or requiring veterinary certificates for every purchase, measures that have proved successful in higher-income countries. 
While the focus of the study was on the aquaculture industry, the authors acknowledge the importance of a “One Health” perspective to find global solutions – which means that all sectors using AMs need to work together.
Henriksson, P.J.G., A. Rico, M. Troell, D.H. Klinger, A.H. Buschmann, S. Saksida, M.V. Chadag and W. Zhang. 2018. Unpacking factors influencing antimicrobial use in global aquaculture and their implication for management: A review from a systems perspective. Sustainability Science 13(4):1105-1120.


Feeding 10 billion people by 2050 within planetary limits may be achievable

A global shift towards healthy and more plant-based diets, halving food loss and waste, and improving farming practices and technologies are required to feed 10 billion people sustainably by 2050, a new study finds. Adopting these options reduces the risk of crossing global environmental limits related to climate change, the use of agricultural land, the extraction of freshwater resources, and the pollution of ecosystems through overapplication of fertilizers, according to the researchers.

The study, published in the journal Nature, and co-authored by Beijer Institute researcher Max Troell, is the first to quantify how food production and consumption affects the planetary boundaries that describe a safe operating space for humanity beyond which Earth’s vital systems could become unstable.

“No single solution is enough to avoid crossing planetary boundaries. But when the solutions are implemented together, our research indicates that it may be possible to feed the growing population sustainably,” says Dr Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food and the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, who led the study.

“Without concerted action, we found that the environmental impacts of the food system could increase by 50-90% by 2050 as a result of population growth and the rise of diets high in fats, sugars and meat. In that case, all planetary boundaries related to food production would be surpassed, some of them by more than twofold.”

The study, funded by EAT as part of the EAT-Lancet Commission for Food, Planet and Health and by Wellcome’s “Our Planet, Our Health” partnership on Livestock Environment and People, combined detailed environmental accounts with a model of the global food system that tracks the production and consumption of food across the world. With this model, the researchers analysed several options that could keep the food system within environmental limits. They found:

  • Climate change cannot be sufficiently mitigated without dietary changes towards more plant-based diets. Adopting more plant-based “flexitarian” diets globally could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than half, and also reduce other environmental impacts, such as fertilizer application and the use of cropland and freshwater, by a tenth to a quarter.
  • In addition to dietary changes, improving management practices and technologies in agriculture is required to limit pressures on agricultural land, freshwater extraction, and fertilizer use. Increasing agricultural yields from existing cropland, balancing application and recycling of fertilizers, and improving water management, could, along with other measures, reduce those impacts by around half.
  • Finally, halving food loss and waste is needed for keeping the food system within environmental limits. Halving food loss and waste could, if globally achieved, reduce environmental impacts by up to a sixth (16%).

“Many of the solutions we analysed are being implemented in some parts of the world, but it will need strong global co-ordination and rapid upscale to make their effects felt,” says Springmann.

“Improving farming technologies and management practices will require increasing investment in research and public infrastructure, the right incentive schemes for farmers, including support mechanisms to adopt best available practices, and better regulation, for example of fertilizer use and water quality,” says Line Gordon, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and an author on the report.

Fabrice de Clerck, director of science at EAT says, “Tackling food loss and waste will require measures across the entire food chain, from storage, and transport, over food packaging and labelling to changes in legislation and business behaviour that promote zero-waste supply chains.”

“When it comes to diets, comprehensive policy and business approaches are essential to make dietary changes towards healthy and more plant-based diets possible and attractive for a large number of people.” adds Springmann.

Aquaculture can be a part of this transformation, according to Max Troell: “Farmed seafood, both in the sea and on land, can play a bigger role in the future. But there is a need to include differences between sea food products in the models, related to health and environmental impacts.”

Reference: Springmann, M., M. Clark, D. Mason-D’Croz, K. Wiebe, B. L. Bodirsky, L. Lassaletta, W. de Vries, S. J. Vermeulen, M. Herrero, K.M. Carlson, M. Jonell, M. Troell, F. DeClerck, L. J. Gordon, R. Zurayk, P. Scarborough, M. Rayner, B. Loken, J. Fanzo, H. C. J. Godfray, D. Tilman, J. Rockström and W. Willett. 2018. Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits. Nature 562:519-525. 

W. Brian Arthur new senior research fellow

The Beijer Institute is delighted to welcome Professor W. Brian Arthur to Stockholm in the Autumn 2018 as a senior research fellow within the new research programme Complexity, Technology and Governance.
W. Brian Arthur will be affiliated to the Beijer Institute as part of the Institute's ambition to advance its research in complexity economics, as well as help the institute develop a new research stream that focuses on exploríng the challenges and opportunities created by rapid technological change, especially artificial intelligence, to the biosphere and the economy as a whole.
W. Brian Arthur is a leading economist and complexity thinker. In the 1980s he led the group at the Santa Fe Institute that developed an alternative, non-equilibrium approach to economics, now called "complexity economics." 
His 2009 book The Nature of Technology “invites comparisons with work by Thomas Kuhn and Joseph Schumpeter” according to the journal Science
Arthur is a member of the Founders Society of the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) and served on its Science Board for 18 years and its Board of Trustees for 10 years, and he is currently External Professor at SFI. Brian Arthur held the Morrison Chair of Economics and Population Studies at Stanford from 1983 to 1996. Among his honors are the International Schumpeter Prize in Economics, the (inaugural) Lagrange Prize in Complexity Science (considered complexity science’s “Nobel Prize”); and honorary doctorates from the National University of Ireland, and the University of Lancaster.

Planet at risk of heading towards "Hothouse Earth" state

Keeping global warming to within 1.5-2°C may be more difficult than previously assessed. An international team of scientists, including Beijer Institute director Carl Folke, has published a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) showing that even if the carbon emission reductions called for in the Paris Agreement are met, there is a risk of Earth entering what the scientists call “Hothouse Earth” conditions.
A “Hothouse Earth” climate will in the long term stabilize at a global average of 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures with sea level 10-60 m higher than today, the paper says. The authors conclude it is now urgent to greatly accelerate the transition towards an emission-free world economy.
"Human emissions of greenhouse gas are not the sole determinant of temperature on Earth. Our study suggests that human-induced global warming of 2°C may trigger other Earth system processes, often called “feedbacks”, that can drive further warming - even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases," says lead author and Beijer Fellow Will Steffen from the Australian National University and Stockholm Resilience Centre. "Avoiding this scenario requires a redirection of human actions from exploitation to stewardship of the Earth system.”
Currently, global average temperatures are just over 1°C above pre-industrial and rising at 0.17°C per decade.
Places on Earth will become uninhabitable
The authors of the study consider ten natural feedback processes, some of which are “tipping elements” that lead to abrupt change if a critical threshold is crossed. These feedbacks could turn from being a “friend” that stores carbon to a “foe” that emits it uncontrollably in a warmer world. These feedbacks are: permafrost thaw, loss of methane hydrates from the ocean floor, weakening land and ocean carbon sinks, increasing bacterial respiration in the oceans, Amazon rainforest dieback, boreal forest dieback, reduction of northern hemisphere snow cover, loss of Arctic summer sea ice, and reduction of Antarctic sea ice and polar ice sheets.
"These tipping elements can potentially act like a row of dominoes. Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another. It may be very difficult or impossible to stop the whole row of dominoes from tumbling over. Places on Earth will become uninhabitable if “Hothouse Earth” becomes the reality," warns co-author Johan Rockström, former executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and incoming co-director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
According to the article, it is uncertain whether the climate system can be safely 'parked' near 2°C above preindustrial levels, as the Paris Agreement envisages. Or if it will, once pushed so far, slip down the slope towards a hothouse planet. Research must assess this risk as soon as possible, the authors argue.
Cutting greenhouse gases is not enough
Maximizing the chances of avoiding a “Hothouse Earth” requires not only reduction of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions but also enhancement and/or creation of new biological carbon stores, for example, through improved forest, agricultural and soil management; biodiversity conservation; and technologies that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it underground, the paper says.
Critically, the study emphasizes that these measures must be underpinned by fundamental societal changes that are required to maintain a “Stabilized Earth” where temperatures are ~2°C warmer that the pre-industrial.
"We humans are now impacting the dynamics of the Earth system not only locally and regionally but also at the global level. Such impacts can be shifted into active, conscious stewardship of our relationship with the biosphere and help stabilise the Earth in conditions conducive for a sustainable societal development. This study identifies some of the levers in this direction," concludes co-author, Carl Folke.

Read more

Citation: Steffen, W., Rockström, J., Richardson, K., Lenton, T.M., Folke, C., Liverman, D., Summerhayes, C.P., Barnosky, A.D, Cornell, S.E., Crucifix, M., Donges, J.F., Fetzer, I., Lade, S.J., Scheffer, M., Winkelmann, R., and Schellnhuber, H.J. (2018) Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1810141115

Media contacts
Stockholm Resilience Centre
Owen Gaffney
Phone: +46 (0) 734604833



Nudging the neighbourhood

New study shows that insights from psychology and behavioural economics can help households improve their food waste habits.
Out of all the food produced in the world approximately one third is lost or wasted which stand for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, consume a quarter of all water used by agriculture and generate more than $900 billion in economic losses globally every year. In a study recently published in Frontiers in Psycholgy, Beijer Institute researcher Therese Lindahl together with her former master student at Stockholm Resilience Centre Noah Linder and Sara Borgström from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, showed that an information campaign guided by insights from psychology and behavioural economics could help promote the recycling of food waste.
Cities stand for a disproportionally large share of global resource use, so trying to make its inhabitants act more environmentally friendly needs to be top priority both for policy and research, the authors argue:
“In cities, small scale changes can reach many people and therefore have large aggregated effects. These are environments in which interventions using psychological insights could prove to be especially effective to promote pro-environmental behaviour.”
Combining new methods
However, just providing information is seldom enough to make people change behaviour, so the researchers decided to see if theories from environmental psychology and behavioural economics could be effective in promoting recycling of food waste in an urban area. The experiment took place in Hökarängen, a suburb of Stockholm. 
Mainly guided by insights from nudging and community-based social marketing, they designed an information leaflet which explained the benefits of separating food waste from normal garbage. The leaflet, which was accompanied by two recycling bags, used descriptive norms urging residents to “join your neighbours, recycle your food waste!” rather than focusing on saving the environment or the saving money. The researchers also included phrases that the residents could relate to in a concrete way: “If all households in Hökarängen would sort their food waste it would be enough biofuel to support 15 garbage trucks for a year.”
Visible effect
To test the efficiency of the leaflet, a so called treatment group of 264 households received the leaflets while 210 households in a control group did not receive them. Measurements in how much food waste was collected took place over the following eight months after they were sent out and this was compared to how much had been collected the previous year.
The result was a statistically significant increase in food waste recycled in the group receiving the leaflets compared to the control group, both in the short- and the long term. Before the intervention the average amount of collected food waste in the treatment group was 19 kg more per station (9 in total) than the control group, while after the intervention it increased to almost 32 kg more. Although the immediate positive effect of the leaflet seems to have attenuated over time, there was still a significant difference between the two household groups, even 8 months after the leaflet was distributed.
Therese Lindahl and her colleagues believe that insights from this study can be used to guide development of similar pro-environmental behaviour interventions for other urban areas in Sweden and abroad, improving chances of reaching environmental policy goals.
Linder, N., Lindahl, T., Borgström, S. 2018. Using Behavioural Insights to Promote Food Waste Recycling in Urban Households—Evidence From a Longitudinal Field Experiment. Front. Psychol., Vol. 9. DOI:

Engaging children and youth as agents for sustainability

Stockholm Seminar with Professor Emerita Louise Chawla, University of Colorado Boulder
About the seminar
In this talk, Louise Chawla will present pivotal experiences in the childhood and youth of people who actively care for the natural world. She will relate the experiences to a “capabilities approach” to human development, an approach which sees affiliation with nature and opportunities for civic participation as essential forhuman flourishing. Chawla will trace the importance of both connection with nature and encounters with environmental injustice, to trigger action for sustainability, with a focus on youth climate activism. She will suggest how educators, staff in environmental organizations and local officials can engage young people in protecting the natural world and building sustainable cities.

About Louise Chawla
Louise Chawla is Professor Emerita in the Environmental Design Program at the University of Colorado Boulder, and a Research Fellow in the Community Engagement, Design and Research Center which she helped establish. With a doctorate in Environmental Psychology and a master’s degree in Education and Child Development, her research areas are children and nature, children in cities, the development of committed action for the environment, and participatory urban design and planning. Her new book, Engaging Children and Youth in the
Planning and Design of Sustainable Cities: A Practical Manual, co-authored with Victoria Derr and Mara Mintzer, will be released by New Village Press in the fall of 2018.

Time and place
Wednesday 21 March, 11.00-11.00, Linné Hall, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Lilla Frescativägen 4A, Stockholm
Stockholm Seminars – frontiers in sustainability science
The Stockholm Seminars cover a broad range of sustainability science perspectives with a focus on the dynamics and stewardship of social-ecological systems. The seminars are organised by the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in collaboration with Albaeco, Future Earth and Stockholm Resilience Centre. The seminars are hosted at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and popular among scientists, students, media and policy makers.
The lectures are open to the public and free of charge. Most of them are filmed and published on the web (see below).
For information on future Stockholm Seminars and videos of past seminars visit 

Carl Folke receives honorary degrees

Within a few months, Beijer Institute director professor Carl Folke has been awarded two honorary doctorates from distinguished universities.

In December 2017 Carl Folke received an honorary doctorate of science by Michigan State University, motivated in the words of its President Lou Anna K. Simon: “In an extraordinary career dedicated to addressing some of the most challenging problems facing the world today, you have displayed a steadfast commitment to our understanding of the environment and to enhancing our abilities to live in a more sustainable manner. Your effective leadership, which has shaped the field of environmental science, is an excellent example for the MSU community of a career dedicated to advancing the common good in uncommon ways.”

“It is very special to receive such a recognition. I am deeply honored and grateful to Professor Jack Liu and colleagues for making it possible. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about and being inspired by the impressive work at MSU and interacting with old and new friends” says Carl Folke.

In connection with the doctorate Carl Folke delivered the 2017 lecture in the The Rachel Carson Distinguished Lecture Series, a platform for prominent scientists and scholars to share their ideas about global challenges and opportunities. Earlier lecturers in this series include Beijer Fellows Elinor Ostrom and Simon Levin. A video of Carl Folke’s lecture with the title Social-ecological systems, resilience thinking, and sustainability: Reconnecting development to the biosphere can be seen here.

To mark its 100-year anniversary in 2018, Wageningen University and Research, at its Dies Natalis celebration 9 March, awarded honorary doctorates to four leading scientists from England, Sweden, the USA and China. These honorary doctorates recognize the researchers' contributions to science and society in core sectors for the University: healthy food and a healthy living environment. Apart from Carl Folke, honorary titles were also awarded to Professors Katrina Brown, Eugene Koonin and Fusuo Zhang.

Beijer Fellow Marten Scheffer, Professor of Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management at Wageningen University, was the supervisor of Carl Folke’s honorary doctorate, which was awarded “in recognition of his seminal work on social-ecological systems and resilience”. The motivation continued:  “Prof. Folke has been described as an exceptionally effective and innovative leader. His tireless efforts have helped make 'resilience' and 'ecological footprint' widely renowned themes in both the academic world and wider society. His work bridges the gap between ecology and social sciences”.

“It was a beautiful experience to be in Wageningen with my dear friend Marten Scheffer, meeting with his research group, giving a master class and enjoying the celebrations”, says Carl Folke and continues: ”It is a bit overwhelming to receive such a distinction at the 100 years milestone celebration of Wageningen University. It was a great pleasure to meet with the Rector Magnificus Arthur Mol and President Louise Fresco and truly encouraging to learn about their inspiring vision for Wageningen in the context of the sustainability challenges facing humanity.” 

Taking climate change seriously: from adaptation to transformation

Stockholm Seminar with Professor Karen O'Brien, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo

About the seminar
Adaptation has been increasingly promoted as a key strategy for reducing risk and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Yet what qualifies as successful adaptation when the impacts are the result of human activities? Who decides the future to which we must adapt?
In this talk, Karen O'Brien distinguish between technical problems and adaptive challenges and discuss why successful adaptation to climate change will only be realized through social transformations. The talk will draw on research from the AdaptationCONNECTS project, which focuses on the role of creativity, collaboration, empowerment and flexibility in realizing adaptation through transformation.
About Karen O'Brien
Karen O’Brien is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at the University of Oslo, Norway. She is interested in integral approaches to understanding and addressing global environmental challenges. Karen’s current research focuses on the relationships between climate change adaptation and transformations to sustainability. She is the co-founder of, an organization that provides perspectives on transformation in a changing climate.
Time and place
Friday 16 March, 14.00-15.00, Linné Hall, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Lilla Frescativägen 4A, Stockholm
Stockholm Seminars – frontiers in sustainability science
The Stockholm Seminars cover a broad range of sustainability science perspectives with a focus on the dynamics and stewardship of social-ecological systems. The seminars are organised by the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in collaboration with Albaeco, Future Earth and Stockholm Resilience Centre. The seminars are hosted at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and popular among scientists, students, media and policy makers.
The lectures are open to the public and free of charge.
For information on past and future Stockholm Seminars visit 




Symposium video: Scenarios for a warmer Arctic

Thursday 15 February 2018, 13.30-17.00
The Beijer Hall, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Climate change has dramatic impacts in the Arctic, with greater temperature increases compared to the Earth as a whole and rapidly melting summer sea ice. These changes are expected to substantially influence the Arctic environment as well as socio-economic activities.

At this symposium at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 15 February 2018 new research was presented and discussed, concerning the direct results of global warming such as future sea ice conditions, impacts on live marine resources and on the provision of ecosystem services. Furthermore, what impacts these changes have on fishing, oil extraction, aquaculture and other economic activities and how they in turn affect the environment and the lives of people in local communities.

The presentations were based on results from the transdisciplinary EU-project Arctic Climate Change Economy and Society (ACCESS), published in a special issue of the journal Ambio (December 2017).
Within ACCESS, a framework to support management in the region was also developed, which takes into account complex interactions between society and nature, possible abrupt change and considerable uncertainty.
Introduction - The Arctic in a broader context and facets of Arctic change
Professor Jean-Claude Gascard, University Pierre and Marie Curie, LOCEAN and CNRS
Sea ice and weather forecasts
Dr. Michael Karcher, Alfred Wegener Institute
Seafood from a changing Arctic
Dr. John Isaksen, Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research, NOFIMA
The risks of Arctic oil spills and the response capacity
Jeremy Wilkinson, British Antarctic Survey
Sources and impacts of Arctic air pollution
Dr. Kathy Law, University Pierre and Marie Curie, LATMOS
A holistic approach to Arctic management
Associate Professor Anne-Sophie Crépin, Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics
Panel discussion led by Miriam Huitric, Stockholm Resilience Centre with Jean-Claude Gascard, Anne-Sophie Crépin and Dr Wendy Broadgate, Future Earth.



How university campuses can promote sustainable development

In an article recently published in the journal Sustainability Beijer Institute researcher Johan Colding, also affiliated with Stockholm resilience Centre (SRC) together with SRC colleague Stephan Barthel have looked at the potential for making university campuses more integrated in a global sustainability agenda. They believe campuses have an untapped potential in reconnecting humans to the biosphere.

“Universities and campus areas can shield, nurture and empower sustainability innovations strong enough to compete even under the tough selection pressure of the free market,” Colding and Barthel argue.

Read the article

A new role for universities

This thinking is part of the idea of the “entrepreneurial university”, a term used to explain how public services provided by universities are increasingly exposed and open to demands.

“Entrepreneurial universities are important actors in promoting sustainable development goals since they provide expertise, knowhow and contribute to regional development,” the authors say. Universities therefore play a role to make these goals possible in education, research, policy formation and information exchange.

Meagre track record 

Yet despite the potential, universities are still lagging in helping societies become more sustainable. Between 1999 and 2011, only 15 out of 14,000 universities had published sustainability reports. Universities engaged in attempts to identify sustainability goals and best practices are still focused on limited indicators such as how to become more energy efficient.

To speed up on their ambitions, Colding and Barthel suggest a variety of recommendations for universities to become ambassadors for sustainable development. University campuses often cover large tracts of land, providing excellent starting points for authentic learning about nature and biodiversity. That means campuses can restore an emotional affinity to nature.

7 points to improve

Specifically, Colding and Barthel suggest the following recommendations:

  • Get students and staff to become stewards of campus open space and natural areas
  • Establish sustainability rating systems on how these spaces and areas are managed
  • Document effects of efforts to improve the sustainability on the campus
  • Turn the campus into a site showcasing examples of sustainability, such as organic food production, consumption and climate smart technologies
  • Clarify ecological strengths and shortcomings of the campus area and beyond
  • In cases where campus land is limited, encourage students (and staff) to become actively involved in managing surrounding natural areas
  • Combine all these ideas to increase access to higher education for economically and socially disadvantaged groups

"Universities have a moral responsibility to educate future generations about the pivotal role that the natural systems have for sustaining human well-being and societal development," Colding and Barthel concludes.

Read more

Colding, J., S. Barthel. 2017. The Role of University Campuses in Reconnecting Humans to the Biosphere. Sustainability 9, no. 12: 2349

Seminar video: The Global Ocean and the Future of Humanity

“We need the oceans more than the oceans need us.” This was a message from Economics Professor Rashid Sumaila, at a half day seminar at the Academy highlighting threats and opportunities for the future of the global oceans.  The speakers explored pathways to ensure that the ocean can continue to provide for humanity, while also protecting its intrinsic values and the structure and function of ecosystems. Furthermore, how protection and use of the ocean can provide benefits from these global commons, in a fair way, to citizens of all nations.
Professor Rashid Sumaila is one of the world’s most innovative researchers on the future of the oceans, integrating the social and economic dimensions with ecology, law, fisheries science and traditional knowledge to build novel pathways towards sustainable fisheries. His work has challenged today’s approaches to marine governance and generated exciting new ways of thinking about our relationship to the marine biosphere, such as protecting the high seas as a ‘fish bank’ for the world and using ‘intergeneration discount rates’ for natural resource projects.
"Fair sharing of the global ocean: climate change, subsidies, and large-scale protection"
Professor Rashid Sumaila, Institute for the ocean and fisheries, University of British Columbia
"International cooperation and leadership for a fair and sustainable ocean"
Maria van Berlekom, Lead Policy Specialist, Environment and Climate Change, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida
"Complex supply chains, novel financial mechanisms and sustainable seafood"
Associate Professor Beatrice Crona, Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere Program, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Music by Perro del Mar
"Global Development on an intertwined planet"
Professor Carl Folke, Stockholm Resiience Centre and the Beijer Institute for Ecological Economics
Panel Discussion moderated by Associate professor Henrik Österblom, Stockholm Resilience Centre
Music by Perro del Mar
This seminar was arranged at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 28 November 2017 by the Beijer Institute, the Global Economic Dynamics and the Bioshere program, Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Volvo Environment Prize foundation


Special issue on scenarios for a warmer Arctic

Impacts of climate change are exceptionally dramatic in the Arctic, with greater temperature increases compared to the Earth as a whole. Climate change is expected to transform the Arctic Ocean from a year round frozen sea with multiyear ice to a sea with open waters in summer and annual ice in the winter similar to the Antarctic Ocean. Such dramatic change will have sizeable impacts on marine ecosystems, economic activities and alter living conditions for indigenous and local peoples in the region. 
The Arctic Ocean provides essential global climate regulation and substantial ecosystem services and benefits to humanity also outside of the region—all of these aspects may be affected. Furthermore, Arctic resources such as stocks of marine seafood, oil, gas, and minerals raise global interests, especially when resource stocks in the rest of the world deteriorate, while population is growing.
A special issue in the journal Ambio, co-edited by Beijer deputy director Anne-Sophie Crépin and with contributions by several other Beijer researchers, addresses major key challenges and issues related to Arctic climate change and development of human activities in the Arctic. It specifically focus on the Arctic Ocean, with the aim to provide some solutions and options. The special issue was based on the transdisciplinary EU-project Arctic Climate Change Economy and Society (ACCESS). In an introductory paper led by Anne-Sophie Crépin the results are synthesised as answers to eight questions:
How do we expect sea ice to change in the Arctic over the next three decades?
What are the expected impacts of climate change on live marine Arctic resources?
How does climate change influence the provision of ecosystem services supporting fisheries and aquaculture?
What economic activities are likely to expand in the Arctic due to climate change?
What environmental impacts are Arctic economic activities likely to generate?
What are the expected impacts of climate change on indigenous peoples?
What constraints does a changing climate impose on Arctic governance and infrastructure?
What kind of management support would help understand and address the complex dynamics triggered by climate change?
Seafood from a changing arctic
In an article led by the Beijer Institute, the authors concludes that Arctic fisheries already experience high variability and that climate change will further amplify these. Species targeted in capture fisheries are expected to move into new water and change existing species dynamics. This is bad news for many species but the Barents sea cod, which is better equipped to deal with the temperature change, could benefit.
“It is likely that a moderate warming will improve the conditions for the most important fish stocks in the Arctic, like cod and herring,” says lead author Max Troell. 
However, he warns that warming will also contribute to a very different species composition in some ecosystems - including changes at all trophic levels, which will have implications for the governance of Arctic Fisheries.
As for aquaculture, there are challenges ahead too. Changes in water temperature, sea level, water current and salinity are some of the drivers most likely to alter today’s aquaculture, forcing the aquaculture industry to adapt to the new reality.
An holistic approach to management
In another article, Beijer Institute researchers Anne-Sophie Crépin, Åsa Gren, Gustav Engström and Daniel Ospina propose a framework to support management in the region, which accounts for complex interactions between society and nature, possible abrupt change, and substantial uncertainties. Their article illustrates the framework’s application for two policy-relevant climate change scenarios: a shift in zooplankton composition and a crab invasion.
"Our holistic approach can help managers identify looming problems arising from complex system interactions and prioritise among problems and solutions, even when available data are limited", says lead author Anne-Sophie Cépin.
The framework called Integrated Ecosystem-Based Management (IEBM) takes into account the crucial role of ecosystems to provide goods, services and other relevant activities that contribute directly or indirectly to human well-being and Arctic sustainable development.
The ACCESS project convened around 100 researchers from 27 different partner institutions in ten different European countries. Researchers’ disciplinary backgrounds covered a wide range of natural and social sciences, including economics, social anthropology, systems ecology, marine biology, climatology and law; they came from universities, national research centres and small and medium enterprises. Stakeholders from local and indigenous populations, industry and non-governmental organizations were also involved.

Eight ways to rewire the world's food systems

Over the last decades, major changes in what people eat and to food production systems all around the world have impacted human health and the state of the environment. Although more food is now produced to feed a growing population, our plates are filled unequally and the nutrition and safety is not always guaranteed. That has led to a strain on our planet and a growing number of people suffering overweight, obesity and micronutrients deficiency. Food production is the single largest driver of environmental degradation and a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

In a recent study published in Environmental Research Letters, Beijer researchers together with colleagues at the Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere programme (GEDB), Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), University of Gävle and the WorldFish Center in Malaysia, teamed up to identify ways the global food system can be ‘rewired’. To do that they looked at how food production has influenced human health and the biosphere since the 1960’s until today.

Read the article

Implications for human and environmental health

In their study, led by Line Gordon, SRC, the authors look at how the total volume of food production has changed along with the nutritional value of the food. They also looked at safety aspects of food production and how farming and fishing have affected crucial earth system processes. The latter part of the study uses the planetary boundaries framework.

The authors argue that the overall increase in the volume of food production has mixed implications for human and environmental health. Less people are undernourished today than in the 1960’s and more varied and convenient food choices are available, but the proportion of overweight and obese people has increased. At the same time, four out of the six planetary boundaries have crossed a safe operating space.

Moreover, a more globalised food system has disconnected consumers from the producers of food. This in turn has reduced the transparency of how food is produced.

"Throughout the past decades, supply chains have become consolidated to a few actors that exert disproportionate power over the production methods and the supply of food at a large scale, constraining individual food choices at the local scale," says co-author Beatrice Crona, GEDB Executive director.

Eight action points

Gordon and her co-authors identify eight “entry points” for a more healthy and sustainable food system:

1. Create nutrient-rich landscapes: This includes selecting crop varieties, fish and livestock based on their nutritional content.

2. Cut waste and change diets: Solutions such as cutting post-harvest losses and shifting dietary patterns can reduce pressure on natural resources..

3. Reduce antimicrobial use: Intensification is a general trend in animal farming and it is urgent to find means that limit excessive use within the animal food production sector.

4. Strengthen biodiversity and multifuntional landscapes: We should better acknowledge and account for the many ecosystem services and social benefits that food producing systems deliver beyond food itself, such as pollination, water filtration, and recreation.

5. Reconnect people to the biosphere: Initiatives that can reconnect individuals and communities to food can facilitate a broader engagement with food systems in healthy and sustainable ways.

6. Enhance transparency between producers and consumers: There is a need to improve our capacity to trace the impacts of food production across the supply chain.

7. Influence consumer decisions: Better knowledge is needed about what enables people to adopt healthy and sustainable dietary patterns.

8. Mobilize key actors to become biosphere stewards

Based on these action points, the authors conclude:

“We need to rewire different parts of food systems, to enhance information flows between consumers and producers at different scales, influence food-system decision makers, foster the biosphere stewardship of key actors in food systems, and re-connect people to the biosphere through the culture of food.”

Read more

Gordon, L., V. Bignet, V. Crona, P. Henriksson, T. Van Holt, M. Jonell, T. Lindahl, M. Troell, S. Barthel, L. Deutsch, C. Folke, J. Haider, J. Rockstroem and JC. Queiroz. 2017. Rewiring food systems to enhance human health and biosphere stewardship. Environmental Research Letters 12:100201. DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa81dc

Call for applications for the Mäler Scholarship

2018 and 2019 Mäler Scholarship in Environmental Economics

The Beijer Institute  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 allows researchers to spend up to 6 months at the institute developing new projects in collaboration with Beijer researchers.  The institute is based at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden and has a small staff of researchers who work on a variety of ecological-economics issues. The research focus of the applicant during the stay should relate closely to at least one of the Beijer Institute’s research programs.

The Beijer Institute’s major objectives are to carry out research and stimulate cooperation to promote a deeper understanding of the interplay between ecological systems and social and economic development. The overall perspective is that humanity is embedded in the biosphere and shapes it from local to global scales, from the past to the future. At the same time humanity fundamentally depends on the capacity of the biosphere to sustain development.

We welcome candidates who can collaborate on research relevant to at least one of the Institute’s in-house researchers and that can be applied to their home country. Methods and topics of interest include for example: quasi experimental research designs to study causal impacts of policies or economic activities on the environment; and experimental approaches to study human behaviour in relation to environmental change or use of natural resources.

The scholarship covers travel costs to and from Stockholm and provides a monthly allowance for lodging and meals. It 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. Read here about former Mäler Scholars.

The institute is now accepting applications from researchers who are interested in spending up to 6 months at the institute in 2018 or 2019 during the periods January– June or August – December.  Applicants should e-mail a document containing the following information to Christina Leijonhufvud (Beijer administrator: by December 13, 2017.

For more information on how to apply read here

The 2017 Gunnerus Award in Sustainability Science to Carl Folke

Beijer Institute director Professor Carl Folke has been awarded the 2017 Gunnerus Award in Sustainability Science for his outstanding scientific work to promote sustainable development globally.


The Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters (DKNVS) and Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) established the international Gunnerus Sustainability Award, which confers a prize of NOK 1 million (approximately USD 190,000), plus a gold medal and diploma.The award honours outstanding scientific work for sustainable development globally and aims to promote research and strengthen the scientific basis of sustainability. It will be presented during NTNU’s sustainability conference on 19 October.


”I feel very happy and greatly honoured to be chosen as the recipient of the Gunnerus Award 2017”, says Carl Folke who is also science director and co-founder of Stockholm Resilience Centre, and explains why he thinks the award is important also for a wider research community:


”The establishment of the Gunners Award with its focus on sustainability science has a great significance for strengthening vulnerable transdisciplinary research environments around the world.”


The press release gives the motivation for giving Carl Folke the award:


Carl Folke’s research quality and quantity is outstanding. He has made substantial contributions to sustainability science and internationally viewed as one of the most important individuals in forming this new field of research. In particular, he has been extremely influential in stimulating research into complex social-ecological systems and a pioneer in bringing social sciences, economics and natural science into a fruitful dialogue and interaction addressing the important sustainability challenges facing society.


Folke’s initiative has opened new perspectives in understanding the dynamic interaction between human beings and nature, the features and services of ecosystems, as well as how socioeconomic conditions help to manage and maintain ecosystems' ability to cope with changes – their so-called resilience.


Folke’s research stresses the importance of living systems at different levels of community development. It shows how we can strive for resilience in the ways we direct and administrate systems where society and nature interact. His work illustrates – in superb fashion – how social progress, prosperity and well-being depend on developments in the biosphere.”


At the Gunners Award website it is also noted that Carl Folke is among the world’s most cited researchers with an h-index of 110, where a score of 60 is often considered to be reserved for truly unique researchers.


Read the full press release here

A week for global sustainability – two conferences in Stockholm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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

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.

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

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.