Baltic Sea

baltic_icon5Social-ecological regime shifts and multi-level governance of the Baltic Sea

The Baltic Sea is a unique social-ecological system. Connected to the Atlantic Ocean only by the narrow Kattegat, the brackish, cold and increasingly eutrophic Baltic Sea has supported populations of fish and mammals including cod, sprat, herring and seals, which have been extensively fished by the economically and politically diverse set of countries that surround the Sea. Taking a social-ecological approach that integrates human behaviour and institutional change with ecological dynamics, we wish to investigate the effects of the coupling and co-evolution of social/political and ecological/physical processes on the Baltic Sea and assess their consequences for governance. Questions include, for example, what is the role of social or political processes for the dramatic collapse in cod stocks in the late 1980s — did they accelerate the collapse, or hold it back; would the collapse have been less likely to occur if there had been different policies and/or fishermen behaviour? Which interactions between the actors in this system led to a lag between cod collapse and management response? We use a variety of approaches to understand the factors influencing the past dynamics of the Baltic Sea. In one study, we use causal loop diagrams to map out different feedbacks in the Baltic Sea social-ecological system and generalized modelling to assess their relative importance. Our results will inform both future governance of the Baltic Sea and a broader understanding of how feedbacks and interactions, particularly those that go beyond market interactions, can affect the dynamics of social-ecological systems.

People: Kirill Orach (multi-level governance, agent-based modelling), Steven Lade (dynamical systems theory), and Maja Schlüter, in collaboration with Henrik Österblom, Thorsten Blenckner and the whole Baltic team at Stockholm Resilience Centre

Methods: Dynamical systems theory; Actors and policy analyses, Institutional Analysis, Social-ecological modelling.


Lade, S.J., Niiranen, S., Hentati-Sundberg, J., Blenckner, T., Boonstra, W.J., Orach, K., Quaas, M.F., Österblom, H., Schlüter, M. (2015) An empirical model of the Baltic Sea reveals the importance of social dynamics for ecological regime shifts. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112, 11120–11125. doi:10.1073/pnas.1504954112

Lade, S.J., Niiranen, S. (2017). Generalized modeling of empirical social-ecological systems: Lade and Niiranen. Natural Resource Modeling 30, e12129.