• Social-ecological systems
• Ecological economics
• Sustainability science
• Reconnecting development to the biosphere
• Seafood, marine ecosystems and governance
• Adaptive governance, stewardship and transformations
Carl Folke is science director, co-founder and in the leadership of the SRC. He is also Director of the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
In addition to engagement with SRC research streams and themes, he is director of the Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere (GEDB) Academy Programme and principal investigator (with Gretchen Daily) of two Wallenberg Foundation Stanford collaboration programmes on ‘Natural capital, resilience and biosphere stewardship’ and ‘Fundamental research in biosphere-based sustainability science’. He is involved in the GRAID programme, the SeaBOS program, the Nereus Program, Predicting the Future Ocean, and recently in two Nordic Centre of Excellence (NorMer, GreenMar). Carl was also partner investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, JCU, Australia for about ten years.
Since the mid-1980s he has broken new grounds in understanding the dynamic interplay of humans and nature, of economy and ecology, and developed research on social-ecological systems and resilience thinking from management and stewardship of ecosystem services in the seas and on the land to global sustainability. He has more than 30 years of experience in collaborating across disciplines, has produced some three-hundred publications (>25 in high impact scientific journals, such as Nature, Science, and PNAS) and is recognized as a highly cited researcher. He has created inter- and transdisciplinary collaborative platforms and contributed to the development of new areas of research, concepts and approaches that have spread across science, education, policy and practice diciplines, and more recently into the business community. Carl’s work has illustrated how progress, prosperity and wellbeing will benefit from reconnecting development to the biosphere.
He has degrees in both economics, business, and administration, and in biology with a focus on ecology. Carl defended his PhD 1990 on the role of life-supporting ecosystems for social and economic development. He became an accociate professor in 1994, and full professor 1996 of natural resource management. He worked as Deputy Director of the Beijer Institute 1991-1996, Chair of the Natural Resource Management branch of Department of Systems Ecology 1997-2007 and Director of the Center for Transdisciplinary Environmental Research (CTM), Stockholm University 1999-2006.
He is among the founders of the Resilience Alliance, a board member, and in the Executive Committee (1999-2015). He was involved in the development of the International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE) working as Secretary of ISEE for about 5 years, and engaged in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the subglobal assessments in particular. Carl shares the position as Editor-in-Chief of Ecology and Society (with Lance Gunderson) and serves on the editorial board of about ten international journals.
He has taken part in the development of the South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies (SARAS), Maldonado, Uruguay. Currently, Carl serves on a number of scientific advisory boards, including the United Nations University’s Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (Tokyo, Japan), University of Helsinki’s Institute of Sustainability Science, HELSUS (Finland), the Swedish Institute for Global Health Transformation(SIGHT) of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation, University of Waterloo (Canada). Previous boards include: the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), the Stockholm Environment Institute, the STEPS Centre, and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy. He has served on boards and committees of research councils, UN organisations, the Swedish Government and various organizations in Sweden and internationally.
Carl is engaged with the Global Resilience Partnership (GRP) of the Swedish development agency, Sida, USAID, DFID, Zurich Insurance Group as well as other members of GRP’s partnership council. The GRP is focused on experimenting with new approaches to development aid. He is co-organizer of the Keystone Actors dialogues for ocean stewardship with leading multinational seafood businesses and the SeaBos initiative, member of the Advisory Board of EAT (food, health, sustainability), the Leadership Council of the Sustainable Development Solution Network (SDSN) Northern Europe, Chair of the Scientific Committee of the Volvo Environment Prize and Scientific Committee of the Kenneth E. Boulding Memorial Award. He has given well over 200 scientific presentations including keynotes and lectures worldwide, numerous public lectures and seminars for diverse audiences, and interviews in media. He has a long record of science, policy and practice collaboration, working with key actors from local landscapes in Sweden to international bodies and enterprises.
He started an institute for science communication, Albaeco, in the late 1990s and is genuinely engaged in the arts-science interface. He has developed several exhibitions like “Changing Matters – The Resilience Art Exhibition” 2008, “Reflections – On People and the Biosphere”, with installations at the art venue Artipelag 2014 and the Raoul Wallenberg Square 2015, Stockholm, and co-developed the exhibition Patterns of the Biosphere 2015 at Svenskt Tenn, Stockholm.
Awards and achievements
• Honorary doctorate, Wageningen University, the Netherlands 2018
• Honorary doctorate of science, Michigan State University, USA 2017
• Gunnerus Award in Sustainability Science 2017
• Elected Member (Foreign) of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences 2017
• International Geographical Union Planet and Humanity Medal 2016
• Honorary doctorate KU Leuven, Belgium 2015
• Social Capitalist of the Year award (w. Johan Rockström) 2010
• Sustainability Science Award of the Ecological Society of America 2004
• Elected member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2002
• The Centre Party’s Environmental Prize (a Swedish political party) 1998 “for his pioneering work with ecosystem services and ecological footprints”
• Pew Scholar Award in Conservation and the Environment 1995
Research news | 2018-10-17
The first in a series of seven "deep dives" looking into the connections between resilience and development
General news | 2018-09-06
Ten of the world’s largest seafood companies announce they will increase their efforts to strengthen sustainable practices in the seafood industry
Research news | 2018-08-06
Keeping global warming to within 1.5-2°C may be more difficult than previously assessed
General news | 2018-06-08
Line Gordon appointed as centre director, Victor Galaz becomes deputy director and Carl Folke new chair of the centre’s governing board
2017 - Journal / article
Food lies at the heart of both health and sustainability challenges. We use a social-ecological framework to illustrate how major changes to the volume, nutrition and safety of food systems between 1961 and today impact health and sustainability. These changes have almost halved undernutrition while doubling the proportion who are overweight. They have also resulted in reduced resilience of the biosphere, pushing four out of s...
2017 - Journal / article
The ocean is under considerable pressure originating from diverse human activities on land and in the water. While substantial literature has focused on how science interacts with policy, relatively little is known about interactions between science and business. Here, we describe: ( i ) the process of identifying “keystone actors” in marine ecosystems, namely globally operating corporations engaged in fisheries and aquacultu...
2017 - Journal / article
Marine ecosystem science has developed since the 1940s, when humans obtained the ability to spend substantial time underneath the surface of the ocean. Since then, and drawing on several decades of scientific advances, a number of exciting research frontiers have emerged. We find: Understanding interacting drivers of change, Identifying thresholds in ecosystems, and Investigating social-ecological dynamics to represent particu...