What is a regime shift?

Centre researcher Oonsie Biggs provides an introduction to social-ecological regime shifts.

Think of an ecological regime shift like a stock market collapse: it is large, abrupt and heavy on the wallet. The collapse of Canada's Newfoundland cod fishery in the early 1990s directly affected the livelihoods of some 35,000 fisherman and fish processing plant workers, and led to a decline of over $200 million dollars per annum in cod landing revenues.

However, there is one fundamental difference between the stock market and an ecological regime shift. Where stock markets usually bounce back, ecological regime shifts cause long-lasting changes to the ecosystem.

Furthermore, they are notoriously difficult to predict. They often come as a surprise, and by the time society realizes what is happening, it is often too late or too costly to reverse the changes. However, new research offers a glimmer of hope, arguing that changes in ecological time series (such as increased variability) can provide early warning of impending regime shifts.

About Oonsie Biggs
Oonsie Biggs is a postdoctoral researcher at the Resilience Centre. Her research at the Centre focuses on identifying and managing thresholds in social-ecological systems.

Her research provides practical scientific theory, methods and insights that can improve society's ability to anticipate high-impact tipping points, and build resilience to undesirable changes.

Stockholm Resilience Centre is a collaboration between Stockholm University and the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

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