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The Anthropocene Ocean: Risks and opportunities for global sustainability
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4105-6372
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Humans have become a dominant force of planetary change. This epoch, referred to as the Anthropocene, implies profound alterations to the Earth’s marine and terrestrial ecosystems upon which so many people depend. In particular, the prospect of a new era of blue growth poses unprecedented sustainability and governance challenges for the ocean, as marine ecosystems face cumulative pressures from local human impacts, global climate change and distal socioeconomic drivers. Exploring what the Anthropocene means for the ocean and its capacity to support human societies in a sustainable and equitable way represents a critical challenge.

This thesis consists of five papers and relies on a mixed-methods approach that includes quantitative and qualitative analyses, transdisciplinary practices, literature reviews and knowledge syntheses. Paper I looks at the relative influence of anthropogenic and biophysical interactions in explaining the occurrence of multiple coral reef regimes across the Hawaiian archipelago. It highlights the nuances of what underpins different regimes and how a reef’s natural setting may either limit or favour successful management interventions. Paper II synthesises the diversity of ocean claims, reviews their impacts, and describes their trajectory as the blue acceleration – a new phase in humanity’s use of the ocean that exhibits a phenomenal rate of change over the last 30 years. Paper III builds on the identification of the world’s largest seafood corporations and reports on a global experiment to test whether these companies have an interest and ability to take on a leadership role for ocean stewardship. The study shows that scientists can play a critical role in this process by linking knowledge to action. Paper IV investigates how finance can promote seafood sustainability. It identifies where different financial mechanisms are most salient along a seafood firm’s development trajectory and discusses three leverage points that could redirect capital towards more sustainable practices: bank loans, stock exchange listing rules, and shareholder activism. Paper V introduces the global production ecosystem (GPE) as a framework that integrates multiple sectors across land and sea to explore the cumulative transformation of the Earth’s biosphere. It shows that the GPE is characterised by hyper-connectivity, global homogenisation and weak feedbacks, which erode resilience and create conditions for new risks to emerge and interact.

Collectively, the five papers suggest that the Anthropocene ocean may be as much about upwelling and parrotfish grazing as it is about bank loans and intensified crop monocultures. The thesis provides novel conceptual and mechanistic ways to link ecosystems to their distal socioeconomic drivers and offers a useful contribution to both academic and policy discussions on how to approach ocean sustainability in the 21st century.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University , 2019. , p. 67
Keywords [en]
Anthropocene, Coral reef, Finance, Globalisation, Ocean, Resilience, Seafood, Social-ecological system, Sustainability, Transdisciplinarity, Transnational corporation
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-176280ISBN: 978-91-7797-929-6 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7797-930-2 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-176280DiVA, id: diva2:1373696
Public defence
2020-01-17, Vivi Täckholmsalen (Q-salen), NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Swedish Research Council Formas, 2015-743
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Manuscript.

Available from: 2019-12-18 Created: 2019-11-27 Last updated: 2019-12-10Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Parsing human and biophysical drivers of coral reef regimes
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Parsing human and biophysical drivers of coral reef regimes
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2019 (English)In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences, ISSN 0962-8452, E-ISSN 1471-2954, Vol. 286, no 1896, article id 20182544Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Coral reefs worldwide face unprecedented cumulative anthropogenic effects of interacting local human pressures, global climate change and distal social processes. Reefs are also bound by the natural biophysical environment within which they exist. In this context, a key challenge for effective management is understanding how anthropogenic and biophysical conditions interact to drive distinct coral reef configurations. Here, we use machine learning to conduct explanatory predictions on reef ecosystems defined by both fish and benthic communities. Drawing on the most spatially extensive dataset available across the Hawaiian archipelago-20 anthropogenic and biophysical predictors over 620 survey sites-we model the occurrence of four distinct reef regimes and provide a novel approach to quantify the relative influence of human and environmental variables in shaping reef ecosystems. Our findings highlight the nuances of what underpins different coral reef regimes, the overwhelming importance of biophysical predictors and how a reef's natural setting may either expand or narrow the opportunity space for management interventions. The methods developed through this study can help inform reef practitioners and hold promises for replication across a broad range of ecosystems.

Keywords
boosted regression trees, ecology, Hawai'i, interactions, management, regime shift
National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-169311 (URN)10.1098/rspb.2018.2544 (DOI)000465431000015 ()30963937 (PubMedID)
Available from: 2019-05-31 Created: 2019-05-31 Last updated: 2019-12-09Bibliographically approved
2. The blue acceleration
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The blue acceleration
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-176254 (URN)
Available from: 2019-11-26 Created: 2019-11-26 Last updated: 2019-12-04Bibliographically approved
3. Emergence of a global science-business initiative for ocean stewardship
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Emergence of a global science-business initiative for ocean stewardship
2017 (English)In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, ISSN 0027-8424, E-ISSN 1091-6490, Vol. 114, no 34, p. 9038-9043Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The ocean represents a fundamental source of micronutrients and protein for a growing world population. Seafood is a highly traded and sought after commodity on international markets, and is critically dependent on healthy marine ecosystems. A global trend of wild stocks being overfished and in decline, as well as multiple sustainability challenges associated with a rapid growth of aquaculture, represent key concerns in relation to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Existing efforts aimed to improve the sustainability of seafood production have generated important progress, primarily at the local and national levels, but have yet to effectively address the global challenges associated with the ocean. This study highlights the importance of transnational corporations in enabling transformative change, and thereby contributes to advancing the limited understanding of large-scale private actors within the sustainability science literature. We describe how we engaged with large seafood producers to coproduce a global science-business initiative for ocean stewardship. We suggest that this initiative is improving the prospects for transformative change by providing novel links between science and business, between wild-capture fisheries and aquaculture, and across geographical space. We argue that scientists can play an important role in facilitating change by connecting knowledge to action among global actors, while recognizing risks associated with such engagement. The methods developed through this case study contribute to identifying key competences in sustainability science and hold promises for other sectors as well.

Keywords
coproduction, governance, learning, resilience, transformation
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-147064 (URN)10.1073/pnas.1704453114 (DOI)000408095300050 ()28784792 (PubMedID)
Available from: 2017-09-19 Created: 2017-09-19 Last updated: 2019-12-02Bibliographically approved
4. Leverage points in the financial sector for seafood sustainability
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Leverage points in the financial sector for seafood sustainability
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2019 (English)In: Science Advances, E-ISSN 2375-2548, Vol. 5, no 10, article id eaax3324Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Can finance contribute to seafood sustainability? This is an increasingly relevant question given the projected growth of seafood markets and the magnitude of social and environmental challenges associated with seafood production. As more capital enters the seafood industry, it becomes crucial that investments steer the sector toward improved sustainability, as opposed to fueling unsustainable working conditions and overexploitation of resources. Using a mixed-methods approach, we map where different financial mechanisms are most salient along a seafood firm's development trajectory and identify three leverage points that can redirect capital toward more sustainable practices: loan covenants, stock exchange listing rules, and shareholder activism. We argue that seafood sustainability requirements need to be integrated into traditional financial services and propose key research avenues for academic, policy, and practice communities. While our study focuses on the role of finance in seafood sustainability, the insights developed are also of high relevance to other extractive industries.

National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences Economics and Business
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-175844 (URN)10.1126/sciadv.aax3324 (DOI)000491132700009 ()31616789 (PubMedID)
Available from: 2019-11-12 Created: 2019-11-12 Last updated: 2019-12-02Bibliographically approved
5. Anatomy and resilience of the global production ecosystem
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Anatomy and resilience of the global production ecosystem
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2019 (English)In: Nature, ISSN 0028-0836, E-ISSN 1476-4687, Vol. 575, p. 98-108Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Much of the Earth's biosphere has been appropriated for the production of harvestable biomass in the form of food, fuel and fibre. Here we show that the simplification and intensification of these systems and their growing connection to international markets has yielded a global production ecosystem that is homogenous, highly connected and characterized by weakened internal feedbacks. We argue that these features converge to yield high and predictable supplies of biomass in the short term, but create conditions for novel and pervasive risks to emerge and interact in the longer term. Steering the global production ecosystem towards a sustainable trajectory will require the redirection of finance, increased transparency and traceability in supply chains, and the participation of a multitude of players, including integrated 'keystone actors' such as multinational corporations.

National Category
Environmental Sciences Agricultural Science, Forestry and Fisheries
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-176004 (URN)10.1038/s41586-019-1712-3 (DOI)000496159900047 ()31695208 (PubMedID)
Available from: 2019-11-14 Created: 2019-11-14 Last updated: 2019-12-17Bibliographically approved

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