- Social-ecological systems
- Ecological economics
- Sustainability science
- Reconnecting development to the biosphere
- Seafood, marine ecosystems and governance
- Adaptive governance, stewardship and transformations
Carl Folke's research has broken new grounds in understanding the dynamic interplay of humans and nature, economy and ecology. He is also one of the most cited researchers in the world
Folke is co-founder and in the leadership of the Centre and also director of the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
In addition to engagement with SRC research areas, he is director (with Beatrice Crona) of the Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere (GEDB) Academy Programme and principal investigator (with Gretchen Daily) of a Wallenberg Foundation Stanford collaboration programme on ‘Fundamental research in biosphere-based sustainability science’.
Folke has more than 30 years of experience in collaborating across disciplines, known for his work with social-ecological systems, resilience, sustainability science, and ecological economics. He has produced some 350 publications and is recognized as a highly cited researcher.
Books include Linking Social and Ecological Systems: Management Practices and Social Mechanisms for Building Resilience (1998), Navigating Social-Ecological Systems: Building Resilience for Complexity and Change (2003), Principles of Ecosystem Stewardship: Resilience-Based Natural Resource Management in a Changing World (2009), and the Art-Science volume Reflections: On People and the Biosphere (2014). He is on the editorial board of some fifteen international scientific journals.
He has created inter- and transdisciplinary research institutes and collaborative platforms, supported cooperation of young scientists across disciplines, and contributed to the development of new areas of research, concepts and approaches that have spread across science, education, policy and practice, and more recently into the business community.
His work has illustrated how progress, prosperity and wellbeing will benefit from reconnecting development to the biosphere, and how to navigate transformations toward sustainable futures.
He has degrees in both economics, business, and administration, and in biology with a focus on ecology. Folke defended his PhD 1990 on the role of life-supporting ecosystems for social and economic development. He became full professor of natural resource management in 1996.
He was 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).
Folke is among the founders of the Resilience Alliance, a board member, and in the Executive Committee (1999-2015), and participated as part of the advisory board in the development of the South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies (SARAS), Maldonado, Uruguay. 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.
Recently, he took part in the Nereus Program, Predicting the Future Ocean, was involved with two Nordic Centre of Excellence (NorMer, GreenMar), and has been partner investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, JCU, Australia for about ten years.
Folke is a leader of the Beijer Young Scholars research project ‘Achieving the sustainable development goals in an unequal world’. He is co-organizer of the Keystone Actors dialogues for ocean stewardship with transnational seafood corporations and the SeaBos initiative, and participates in the Earth Resilience and Sustainability Initiative with Princeton University and PIK.
In April 2021 he played a central role in the first Nobel Prize Summit, hosted by the Nobel Foundation and organised by the US National Academy of Sciences, Potsdam institute for Climate Impact Research, and Stockholm Resilience Centre/Beijer Institute.
Folke is scientific director of the centre’s Executive Programme in Resilience Thinking: Transformative Business Leadership for a Prosperous Planet, member of the Advisory Board of EAT and the EAT Forum (food, health, sustainability), Chair of the Scientific Committee of the Volvo Environment Prize and Scientific Committee of the Kenneth E. Boulding Memorial Award.
He has given over 200 scientific presentations including keynotes and lectures worldwide, numerous public lectures and seminars for diverse audiences, and interviews to the 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 and contributed to the the exhibitions Patterns of the Biosphere 2015 and Welcome to the Biosphere, both at Svenskt Tenn, Stockholm.
Natural capital, resilience and biosphere stewardship: Lecture at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium "Planet Earth: A Scientific Journey", at Stockholm University May 9-10, 2019.
Perspectives on global sustainability: Interview by the Global Sustainability Strategy Forum, April 2019.
Current boards and steering committees
- University of Helsinki’s Institute of Sustainability Science, HELSUS (Finland)
- The Swedish Institute for Global Health Transformation (SIGHT)
- The Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation, University of Waterloo (Canada)
- Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS), South Africa
- The Monaco Ocean Science Federation
- The US-UK Scientific Forum on the Valuation of Biodiversity, National Academy of Sciences, USA
- Royal Society, UK
Previous boards and committees
- The National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS)
- The International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP)
- The Stockholm Environment Institute
- United Nations University’s Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (IAS)
- The US National Academy of Sciences workshop on sustainability science
- STEPS Centre
Awards and achievements
- Grande Médaille Albert Ier, Science, Institut Océanographique de Monaco, 2021
- HM The King's Medal 8th size with the ribbon of the Order of the Seraphim 2018
- Gunnerus Award in Sustainability Science 2017
- International Geographical Union Planet and Humanity Medal 2016
- Ebba and Sven Schwartz Scientific Award 2016
- Social Capitalist of the Year award (w. Johan Rockström) 2010
- Sustainability Science Award of the Ecological Society of America 2004
- 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
- Elected International Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences 2017
- Elected Member of the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters 2017
- Elected Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry 2017
- Elected member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2002
- Honorary doctorate, Wageningen University, the Netherlands 2018
- Honorary doctorate of science, Michigan State University, USA 2017
- Honorary doctorate KU Leuven, Belgium 2015
News articles with Folke, Carl
Research news | 2022-06-17
For the sake of sustainability, norms and incentives must change
New study identifies the five best places to intervene in a system to trigger transformations
Research news | 2022-06-08
Carl Folke awarded the Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences
Folke acknowledged for his pioneering role in the transdisciplinary approach within sustainability science
Research news | 2022-06-08
Centre joins the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures
Stockholm Resilience Centre adds science expertise together with its partners Beijer Institute and the Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere programme (GEDB)
Research news | 2022-06-01
Looking back at fifty years of Earth-system science
50 years ago, the Stockholm conference was a tipping point in how the world perceived environmental challenges. Today, we need to reach a tipping point towards planetary stewardship
Videos with Folke, Carl
Nobel Prize Summit, second science session
The second of two days of science sessions focused on new technologies, social innovation, governance, inclusiveness and stewardship
Nobel Prize Summit, first science session
The first of two science sessions focused on the role of science in supporting transformations towards global sustainability
Carl Folke on natural capital, resilience and biosphere stewardship
Lecture at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium "Planet Earth: A Scientific Journey", at Stockholm University May 9-10, 2019.