Insight #2 Regime shifts
Social-ecological systems contain various tipping points or thresholds that can trigger large-scale reorganisation.
Regime shifts are large, persistent, often abrupt changes in the structure and function of social-ecological systems. A regime shift occurs when there is a switch in the dominant feedbacks, and is often associated with rapid non-linear change as the system reorganizes into a different structure and function.
Such a switch can occur when a large shock (e.g. hurricane, political turbulence) or combination of shocks overwhelm the dominant system feedbacks. More commonly, a gradual change (e.g. habitat loss, accumulation of pollutants, emergent markets, changes in values) slowly erodes the strength of the dominant feedbacks until a threshold is reached at which a different set of feedbacks suddenly becomes dominant and the system rapidly reorganizes into a new regime (Biggs et al. in press, Folke et al. 2011).
The slow erosion of feedbacks usually goes unnoticed until the actual regime shift occurs — hence regime shifts often occur as a surprise (see illustration below).
Understanding of regime shifts is important for ecosystem governance as they often have substantial impacts on human economies and societies, tend to occur unexpectedly, and are difficult, expensive and sometimes impossible to reverse.
1. Regime shifts are typical features of SES, not rare, isolated phenomena.
2. Important regime shifts arise from the interaction of social and ecological factors.
3. Regime shifts in SES have large impacts on ecosystem services and human well-being.
4. Regime shifts may take the form of socialecological transformations.
5. Regime shifts are difficult to detect.
6. Managing regime shifts requires different approaches than managing more gradual social-ecological change.
Research news | 2022-01-10
Peter Jørgensen receives European Research Council starting grant
The grant consists of 1,5 million Euro over five years for studying the emergence of new problem species in agriculture and human health
Research news | 2021-12-16
Freshwater biodiversity must be given a higher priority
Research and conservation of freshwater biodiversity is lagging behind. Researchers propose 15 priorities to improve knowledge on biodiversity in lakes, rivers, ponds and wetlands
Research news | 2021-12-14
Turning tension into transformation
Too much time is spent debating which agenda for change is best, instead of finding ways to facilitate better interactions among different interests
Research news | 2021-12-14
Global Resilience Partnership releases report on their work at COP26
The report synthesises the key overarching messages from their activities at the conference and offers guidance for future actions towards COP27
Research news | 2021-12-13
In a warming world the ocean will struggle as a carbon sink
Biological feedbacks mean the ocean will struggle to remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as expected
Research news | 2021-12-08
Getting a more complete picture of our impact on nature
New metric can help investors, companies, cities, and governments track their environmental impacts beyond greenhouse gas emissions