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Stockholm Resilience Centre
Friday, May 7, 2021
Tuesday, June 1, 2021
Regime shifts - persistent reorganization in the structure and function of ecosystems that abruptly shift supplies of ecosystem services, have the potential to surprisingly disrupt the ability of nations to achieve the SDGs. Regime shifts have been documented in a wide range of ecosystems, well known examples include shifts from coral-dominated reef to algal-dominated reefs, and shifts from open to closed, wooded savannas. Even for well-known types of regime shifts such as freshwater eutrophication, the specific timing of regime shifts is difficult to predict in both theory and practice and therefore often comes as a surprise, which further exacerbates the challenges of managing and coping with such shifts. Furthermore, once they have occurred, regime shifts are often difficult or even impossible to reverse due to changes in system feedbacks. We have developed the Regime Shifts Database, which synthesizes available scientific information on the drivers, dynamics and consequences of different types of ecological regime shifts (https://regimeshifts.org/).
We are seeking a postdoctoral researcher to work with us to develop new tools to map the risk of regime shifts across the world’s ecosystems, to ideally estimate the risks of regime shifts and identify regions, people and activities that may be particularly at risk of regime shifts. We aim to combine existing understanding of regime shifts with heterogenous datasets, ranging from spatially explicit data with heterogeneous resolutions (e.g. GIS), remote sensing products, sub-national statistics, and even social media to better estimate risk and impact of regime shifts, and use these risks to inform decision-making.
There is substantial opportunity to combine machine learning and other techniques with geographical data to estimate where regime shifts are likely to occur or where the probability of regime shifts is high. We hope that such models can be trained on existing data on regime shifts from the regime shift database, however we expect that developing and training such approaches will require creating additional regime shift databases.
This task requires both knowledge of spatial data and the ability to develop simple, robust models that can be used to relate complex systems models to uncertain and partial information of ecological structures and dynamics. We expect this work to initially explore a number of options and then focus on developing decision tools. It will require designing tools that are able to cope with uneven and missing data, and clearly communicate complex and uncertain findings to a general audience.
We would like a tool that estimates risk of regime shifts to be able to integrate with the InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs) a suite of models that are used to map and value the goods and services from nature that sustain and fulfill human life (https://naturalcapitalproject.stanford.edu/software/invest). Identifying changes in risks for the abrupt change in the flow of ecosystem services would be an important addition to these models.
This goal will be achieved by working with an international team to: