All posts by Garry Peterson

Prof. of Environmental science at Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University in Sweden.

Tim Daw on ecosystem services tradeoffs

  • In the video below Tim Daw, from the University of East Anglia’s School of International Development and the Stockholm Resilience Centre, explains his project Participatory Modelling of Wellbeing Tradeoffs in Coastal Kenya. The project, in which I’m also participating, has examined tradeoffs between social wellbeing and ecological conservation in small scale fisheries in Kenya using a combination surveys, models, scenarios, and participatory workshops.

For more information on the project is available on the Stockholm Resilience Centre’s website. The project is funded by the UK’s Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation programme. and there is more information on the ESPA website.

For more on poverty and ecosystem service tradeoffs see:

  • Bennett, E.M., Peterson, G.D. & Gordon, L.J. (2009) Understanding relationships among multiple ecosystem services. Ecology letters, 12, 1394–404. DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2009.01387.x
  • Daw, T., Brown, K., Rosendo, S. & Pomeroy, R. 2011. Applying the ecosystem services concept to poverty alleviation: the need to disaggregate human well-being. Environmental Conservation, 38, 370–379. DOI: 10.1017/S0376892911000506
  • Raudsepp-Hearne, C., Peterson, G.D. & Bennett, E.M. 2010. Ecosystem service bundles for analyzing tradeoffs in diverse landscapes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107, 5242–7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0907284107

PhD studentship in Political Science at Stockholm University

Are you looking for a PhD studentship in political science, linked to the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and focusing on participation and learning in ecosystem management? Then have a look at the ad below. The student will be based at the Department of Political Science (Stockholm university), supervised by Andreas Duit, and will be embedded in a research team that consists of Lisen Schultz (systems ecologist at the SRC), Örjan Bodin (systems ecologist at the SRC), Cecilia Lundholm (educational scientist), Matthew Plowey (GIS student) and Simon West (PhD student in Natural Resource Management).

Applications are due on December 1st.

The Department of Political Science, Stockholm university, announces an externally funded PhD studentship in comparative ecosystem governance.

Project title
GLEAN — A Global Survey of Learning, Participation and Ecosystem Management (

Project description
The PhD-position is funded by the research programe GLEAN — A Global Survey of Learning, Participation and Ecosystem Management, which is financed by the National Science Council and directed by Associate Professor Andreas Duit.

The programme is hosted by the Department of Political Science in collaboration with Stockholm Resilience Centre and is carried out by a cross-disciplinary research team during the period 2012—2016.

The GLEAN project, in which the PhD project will be embedded, aims to analyse the effect of stakeholder participation in natural resource management programmes on outcomes in ecosystems and learning processes.

By combining a cross-national panel survey of BR-areas in 55 countries, longitudinal biodiversity mapping using satellite imagery, and context-sensitive field work in strategically selected cases studies, the contested role of stakeholder participation in natural resource management will be examined in with a much higher degree of precision and generalizability than previously possible.

Criteria for selection
Applications will be assessed based on the following criteria:
– analytical ability (scientific reports, papers, or degree project thesis)

– practical experience and knowledge related to the project

– knowledge of scientific theory and method

– personal references and gender equality aspects

Eligibility requirements
– completed academic degree at advanced level

– completed courses equivalent to 240 Swedish university credits (of which at least 60 credits at advanced level), or have acquired the equivalent knowledge in another way in Sweden or elsewhere. There are some regulations regarding transition.

For further information on eligibility criteria, application process etc please see

Ocean acidification and resilience: a guest post from Beatrice Crona

This is a guest post from my colleague Beatrice Crona at the Stockholm Resilience Center.

During the past week I have spent my days wrapping my head around complex climate and ocean models during the Third symposium on Oceans in a High-CO2 World (23-27th Sept 2012) where I had been invited to give a plenary on ‘Governance in the context of ocean acidification’, based on work done together with my colleagues Victor Galaz, Henrik Österblom, Per Olsson, and Carl Folke as well as others at the Stockholm Resilience Center.

Ocean acidification is one of the nine planetary processes identified by Rockström et al (2009) as likely to reach critical thresholds and exhibit possibly nonlinear dynamics in the future if we do not curb anthropogenic to on our planet.  Approximately 25% of the CO2 that gets emitted into the atmosphere every year is absorbed by the oceans.  Simply put, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere reacts with ocean water creating carbonic acid. As a result the concentration of hydrogen ions increase while the concentration of carbonate ions decrease.

This symposium has summarized a number of disturbing trends. One of the key issues is that ocean acidification interacts with multiple other stressors to affect change to both individual organisms and whole ecosystems. One example is how ocean acidification will interact with global warming. Increased rates of acidification in colder regions will drive populations of species to migrate south, while increasing temperatures will simultaneous force populations to move north thus creating an ‘acidification/temperature sandwich’.

Much of the work presented at the symposium focuses on the impacts of different planctonic communities and the effects of ocean acidification on both physiology and calcification. Another big chunk of the work presented deals with trying to monitor these effects and their effects on ecosystem dynamics.

Beth Fulton of Australia’s CSIRO, used whole system models of both ecological and social components, showed interesting results of how ocean acidification is likely to affect fisheries in the future with likely ecological reorganizations that will impact communities and industries.

In fact, some fish and seafood industries are already feeling the effects. Since 2008 oyster hatcheries on the West coast of the US have seen some 70-80% reduction in hatchery success. This aquaculture sector represents a 100 million USD industry and ocean acidification clearly poses a real threat to both social and economic aspects of coastal communities.

Needless to say it is a gloomy story that emerges – The question is what can be done and I can’t help wonder what the resilience community can do to contribute to sustainable solutions?

Many of the ecosystem service on which millions of people depend are going to be affected but many of them also are also not easily valued with conventional methods. Resilience scholars are already addressing these issues but can we do more, or do it differently?

Governance clearly plays an important role. The ocean acidification issues is linked to climate change as the underlying cause is the same – increasing atmospheric CO2. But relying on climate change governance discussions to solve the issue may not be enough. While discussions for mitigating CO2 have also included reduction of other green house gases, such as methane, these measures will have no direct effect on ocean acidification. At the same time, several other planetary scale processes, like pollution, biodiversity loss, and nitrogen cycles, will create synergistic pressures on oceans. Understanding this and being able to recommend innovative ways of addressing the combined governance of these issue complexes is going to be necessary, and the resilience community can play an important role here- by understanding which governance structures can best address both incremental and non-linear change.

Finally, one of the key messages emerging from this meeting is the the urgency of the problem and the need for innovations to address both mitigation and adaptation at multiple levels. The X Prize Foundation is launching a competition for innovation as a way to speed up breakthrough technologies to advance ocean acidification understanding.  The formation of  multiple coalitions of willing actors – coming together to address the issue from different perspectives (from local to national to regional) – have been mentioned during the course of this meeting.   Studying these and understanding how, and under which conditions they can effectively promote innovation and diffusion of new ideas will be an important contribution.

This symposium is dominated by natural scientists. While sound science is obviously a key prerequisite for understanding the ocean acidification phenomena, transdisciplinary science is what will help us address the underlying causes. I leave this meeting with mixed feelings – downcast by the mounting pessimistic trends, but hopeful in that as a community resilience scholars have a big role to play by continuing to integrate natural and social science.

A history of bicycle transformation in the Netherlands

Cool video about how a movement for social-ecological transformation took advantage of a window of opportunity.

Dutch cyclist organizations pushing for new cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands.

Read more on the Bicycling Dutch website in this post.  An interesting post compares public space in locations in Netherlands in 2012 and 1957.

Political Ecology and Resilience

posterI will be participating in a public discussion Resilience and Political Ecology at Upssala University April 27th in a moderated discussion with Prof. Alf Hornborg a professor of Human Ecology at Lund University, which will be moderated by Eva Friman from the Uppsala Centre for Sustainable Development, Uppsala University

The discussion will be Friday 27 April 2012, 14.15-17.00,  Hambergssalen, Geocentrum, Villavägen 16, Uppsala University. More information is on the DevNet website here and here.

Alf Hornburg and I previously had an online discussion on this blog where I tried to understand and respond to his critique of resilience, based on a review Victor Galaz had of a recent paper of his.  I expect that the discussion will be interesting and I hope that there will be some fruitful discussion.

While the discussion has been framed by the organizers as a debate, I do not see political ecology and resilience as opposed.  Indeed, I wrote a 1999 paper in Ecological Economics –Political ecology and ecological resilience: An integration of human and ecological dynamics – (doi:10.1016/S0921-8009(00)00217-2) that suggested some ways I thought ideas from political ecology could be included in resilience thinking.  While resilience researchers have long argued that issues of power need to be included in resilience thinking there hasn’t been a mass movement towards their integration, but there have been a fair number of researchers how have attempted to explicitly combine aspects of political ecology and resilience thinking.

For people that are interested in thinking I’ve stated a group on Mendeley to share papers that attempt to integrate resilience and political ecological theory and methods.  Right now there are about 30 papers in there, but I expect there are a number that have been missed, and I hope Resilience Science readers can add them to the group.

I haven’t carefully read all the papers in the Mendeley group, but three papers that I found particularly interesting are:

  • Karl S Zimmerer’s 2011 The landscape technology of spate irrigation amid development changes: Assembling the links to resources, livelihoods, and agrobiodiversity-food in the Bolivian Andes.  Global Environmental Change 21(3) 917-934. doi:  10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2011.04.002,
  • McSweeney and Coomes 2001 Climate-related disaster opens a window of opportunity for rural poor in northeastern Honduras<.  PNAS 108(13)  5203-5208.doi:  10.1073/pnas.1014123108
  • Turner and Robbins 2008 Land-Change Science and Political Ecology: Similarities, Differences, and Implications for Sustainability Science.  Annual Review of Environment and Resources 33(1) 295-316. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.environ.33.022207.104943

Conceptual diagram from Turner and Robbins

Robert Harrison on Joesph Conrad

Stanford humanities professor Robert Harrison has a great online podcast, Entitled Opinons, that discusses various aspects of the Humanities.

Robert Harrison is a Dante specialist, but he is also very interested in people’s relationships with the Earth.  His enthralling books Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition, and Forests: The Shadow of Civilization provide much food for thought.

His shows cover diverse topics and thinkers such as Michel Foucault, eco-critic Ursula Heise on Extinction, and A Monologue on Machiavelli.

In his show on Joesph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness |MP3| he gives a (to me) an interesting environmental interpretation of the novel.  He states (transcript from Beams & Struts):

What did the intervening century [since Joseph Conrad’s book Heart of Darkness was written] do to change the situation [of Western nihilism outlined in that book]?  If one is honest, precious little. On the contrary, the twentieth century just enacted the most virulent forms of Western nihilism through two catastrophic world wars, and the endless genocides associated with communism and cold war politics and so forth. So it’s very difficult I think to soberly look back on the twentieth century and to say that the vision of nihilism that Conrad puts forward in ‘Heart of Darkness’ was not well founded.

I think it was well founded, raising the question of whether we are to be stuck in that dark hole that he so vividly  portrays for us, or whether the twenty-first century might find a way out of it…

One of the visions that Conrad has of Western nihilism in ‘Heart of Darkness’ is of the sheer carelessness of the Western rapacious attitude toward Africa and the continent of Africa, as raiding its resources, and taking from the Earth as much as one can take without giving anything back in return. And this is the formula for nihilism.

Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ sees Western modernity as a kind of ferocious drive to extract as much out of the Earth as possible without giving anything back to it…So the question for the twenty-first century will be whether a turn is possible in our relations with the Earth, whether we can return to the primary human vocation of being caretakers rather than destroyers in our relation to the Earth.

Montpellier Panel – Growth with Resilience: Opportunities in African Agriculture

The Montpellier Panel, a group of experts from the fields of agriculture, sustainable development, trade, policy, and global development chaired by Gordon Conway from UK’s Imperial College, have a new report ‘Growth with Resilience: Opportunities in African Agriculture’. The report looks at how agriculture is connected to economic growth, food production, climate change and ecosystem services, but interestingly puts resilience at the centre of their approach.  They argue that that while there are many challenges to agriculture in Africa, there are an under appreciated set of opportunities.

The figure below summarizes their report’s strategy.

Gordon Conway has written an article for has a about the report.  He writes:

Developing resilient agriculture will require technologies and practices that build on agro-ecological knowledge and enable smallholder farmers to counter environmental degradation and climate change in ways that maintain sustainable agricultural growth.

Examples include various forms of mixed cropping that enable more efficient use and cycling of soil nutrients, conservation farming, microdosing of fertilisers and herbicides, and integrated pest management.

These are proven technologies that draw on ecological principles. Some build on traditional practices, with numerous examples working on a small scale. In Zambia, conservation farming, a system of minimum or no-till agriculture with crop rotations, has reduced water requirements by up to 30 per cent and used new drought-tolerant hybrids to produce up to five tons of maize per hectare — five times the average yield for Sub-Saharan Africa.

The imperative now is scaling up such systems to reach more farmers.

Another solution is to increase the use of modern plant and animal breeding methods, including biotechnology. These have been successful in providing resistance to various pests of maize, sorghum, cowpeas, groundnuts and cotton; to diseases of maize and bananas; and to livestock diseases.

These methods can help build resilience rapidly. We need to combine them with biotechnology-based improvements in yield through improved photosynthesis, nitrogen uptake, resistance to drought and other impacts of climate change.

Agro-ecology and modern breeding methods are not mutually exclusive. Building appropriate, improved crop varieties into ecological agricultural systems can boost both productivity and resilience.

Developing agriculture with resilience depends on science, technology and innovation; but there are no magic bullets. We need strong political leadership.

An excellent example is Ghana, where agricultural gross domestic product has risen by five per cent each year for the past decade and the millennium development goal of halving hunger by 2015 has already been achieved.This was largely due to the leadership of former president John Kufuor who gave agricultural development a high priority and created an enabling environment for the adoption of new technologies and other innovations.

Planet Under Pressure: Understanding the Anthropocene

The above video on the Anthropocene was created for the Planet Under Pressure global change and sustainability conference in London, UK, which starts today, March 26th, and continues to the 29th. The movie is:

A 3-minute journey through the last 250 years of our history, from the start of the Industrial Revolution to the Rio+20 Summit. The film charts the growth of humanity into a global force on an equivalent scale to major geological processes.

It presents a contemporary picture of the world in which we live in, and how dynamics of the biosphere and the ways it supports human wellbeing. The shifting anthropocene provides the basis for how people can act to improve their lives in this decade and that provides the background for the conference.

The conference, which is attempting to better integrate the community of researchers working on sustainability and global change (importantly not just climate change), and to focus more on how to solve rather than only document problem. There are lots of resilience researchers at the conference. A partial list of Stockholm Resilience Centre participation is on our website.

The conference website is live streaming on the web, the conference programme is here, the conference has the tag #planet2012 on twitter, and also has a blog.

The conference organizers are also experimenting with a variety of atypical scientific conference activities (e.g. a debategraph, globally distributed events ) to try and improve innovation and connect the conference to the world. And that is helping me watch a bit of the conference while I am on parental leave in Stockholm.