Managing resources with potential regimshifts: using experiments to explore social-ecological linkages in common resource systems

Many natural resources are managed as common pool resources, which often results in over-exploitation. Moreover, changes in these resources are not necessarily smooth.

 If some thresholds are passed, large, dramatic transformations can interrupt smooth changes in the system, creating so called regime shifts. During such shifts, far-reaching, abrupt, persistent changes occur in ecosystem services that the system produces, that potentially can have a significant impact on human well-being.

These features complicate management of common pool resources further. Theoretical studies show that traditional policy instruments like taxes may not necessarily work and that the outcome will depend on the underlying behavioral assumptions of the model. In order to develop the optimal set of policies and management of these common pool resources it is crucial to explore the linkages between ecological characteristics and human behavior.

This project do this by relying on experimental (laboratory and field) methods. We are testing how various forms of uncertainty related to regime shifts influence behavior and overall outcomes. Moreover, we address and compare how quantitative instruments, price instruments and administrative instruments perform in the presence of regime shifts. The aim is to provide essential information to better understand social mechanisms underlying regime shifts and how we can overcome them.

The project is funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond and the EU project ACCESS

Therese Lindahl


Address: The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics The Royal Swedish Academy of Science Box 50005 SE-104 05 Stockholm Sweden