2008 has been a year filled with milestones for Stockholm Resilience Centre: not only did it organize the world's first conference on social-ecological resilience, it was also the year Buzz Holling received the Volvo Environment Prize and MISTRA identified Stockholm Resilience Centre as the strongest research environment for strategic environmental research in Sweden!
- It is a great achievement that we already with less than two years of existence have developed into a fully operational research centre, with a strategic research agenda at the front of transdisciplinary thinking on resilience and sustainability, a strong international reach and respect, and an overwhelming science-policy and communications ability, says centre director Johan Rockström.
MA Capacity building and article published in Science
In February, the centre played a key role in the follow-up of the 2005 UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA). Held at the UNEP Governing Council meeting in Monte Carlo, Stockholm Resilience Centre was asked to lead the MA-work on increased capacity building and improved education within transdisciplinary research.
- We are now starting to realize that the human erosion of ecosystem resilience can cause abrupt and extensive changes such as deforestation and global marine crises. Stockholm Resilience Centre provides new knowledge on how to strengthen and develop nature's capacity to deal with change. It is a pleasure for us to be a key partner in the United Nations ecosystem assessment, says Johan Rockström.
February also saw the publication of centre-researcher Malin Falkenmark's Science article Stationarity is Dead: Whither Water Management? Together with an international group of researchers she states that current water infrastructure, channel modifications and drainage works increasingly affect flood risk, water supply and water quality.
Fellow centre researcher Henrik Österblom was also interviewed in Science for his work on how "junk food" influence marine birds and mammals. Overfishing and changes in climate risk putting marine birds and mammals on a “junk food" diet AND because fish-eating seabirds and mammals are depending on high densities of energy-rich prey, even small changes in diet quality can have a negative impact on population parameters, the study says.
Resilience conference 2008: a world manifestation
Monday 14 April saw the opening of the world's first major international conference on resilience.
- This conference is a world manifestation of resilience research and we need a scientific renewal of research where new discoveries are based on a free exchange of ideas and thoughts, Gunnar Öquist said, Permanent Secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Using advanced web television interface, an extensive number of events from the conference were webcasted via the resilience centre website. More than 40 events were covered live over a four-day period. Furthermore, some 20 events were filmed and made available on the website shortly after.
Buzz Holling, considered the father of resilience thinking, called for freedom and flexibility in order to generate multilevel change and novelty thinking. This is needed in a time when several crises are emerging, he said.
- This year a cluster of predicted crises have become aware to the public, such as the rise of food prices due to energy market changes and the collapse of the financial market. We see that small instabilities and risks spread to practically all developed countries in the world. However, globalisation also adds a great positive value because the individual or small groups can have an increasingly global effect, Holling said.
Resilience experts such as Brian Walker, Johan Rockström, Carl Folke and Bo Ekman called in the aftermath of the conference for deep-rooted changes to sustainable development thinking and suggested a new UN panel on Ecosystem services.
Identifying key natural boundaries
2008 also sparked off the substantial world-wide collaboration on identifying key natural boundaries. Twenty of the world´s leading scientists and experts gathered at the 2008 Tällberg Forum to begin identifying the boundaries that will keep us safe from the adverse effects of climate change. Keeping within these boundaries will act as a safety barrier for sustainable human development.
- We rush towards boundaries that, if we cross them, will lead to irreversible disasters. We´re talking about sea level increases of several meters, a collapse of agricultural systems in dry regions, a total loss of coral reefs and fishing resources, and the dehydration of the Amazonas. Global leaders have to realize that we cannot negotiate with nature. We need to revise our own societal systems, said Johan Rockström.
Resilience centre and Madagascar join forces
In August 2008, Stockholm Resilience Centre and Madagascar agreed to develop a transdisciplinary research partnership to strengthen Madagasy research on sustainable development.
- Stockholm Resilience Centre is committed to support the building of a transdisciplinary research centre in Madagascar, focusing on ecosystem services, including management and government issues. Furthermore, the centre is committed to reserve five places for Madagasy PhD-students at the new research school, said Thomas Elmqvist. He is a professor in Natural Resource Management at Stockholm University and principal investigator of multidisciplinary projects in Madagascar.