Regime Shifts in the Anthropocene

University dissertation from Stockholm : Stockholm University

Abstract: Regime shifts are large, abrupt and often hard to reverse changes in the function and structure of socal-ecological systems. These regime shifts have been documented in a broad range of systems and scales both in marine, terrestrial and polar ecosystems. Regime shifts have attracted the attention of scientists, managers and policy makers because they substantially affect the flow of ecosystem services that society relies on. Despite their re|evance in the face of climate change or increasing pressure of the anthropocene, little is understood about the overall patterns of regime shifts causation and impacts for human well being. This licentiate thesis summarises the first steps towards a global assessment of regime shifts. Paper I is a literature review that attempts to synthesise the state of the art of regime shifts theory, its application in different disciplines, and frontiers of research. Paper II outlines a framework developed to study and compare regime shifts across different systems and scales, namely the Regime Shifts Database. Paper III investigates the patterns of drivers co-occurrence, and outlines the opportunities and challenges for management of regime shifts. The three papers together propose a new approach to study regime shifts that combines system thinking and tools from network science to analyze phenomena where knowledge about causal mechanisms, opportunities for experimentation and time series data are limited or unavailable. The discussion reflects upon the limitation and opportunities of our approach and outlines the guidelines for future developments of my PhD project.

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