Major Research Project

Regime Shifts Database (RSDB)

Theme(s):
Project Leader(s): Prof Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs, Dr Kristi Maciejewski, Dr Linda Luvuno

Social-ecological regime shifts, for example the collapse of an important fishery, typically have substantial impacts on ecosystem services and human well-being and often are expensive or impossible to reverse. Shifts between regimes occur when a critical threshold or tipping point is crossed that triggers a reorganization of the dominant feedbacks in social-ecological systems, leading to large, nonlinear, and often abrupt changes. Feedbacks that lead to regime shifts can also generate traps that keep the system in an undesirable regime that leads to degradation of ecosystem services and human well-being, or facilitate transformations to more desirable regimes.

This project aims to systematically synthesize and compare regime shifts that have been documented in the literature across a wide variety of ecological, social and social-ecological systems. Regime shifts are compiled in an online database, and include information on key drivers and underlying processes leading to each shift, impacts on ecosystem services and human well-being, and potential management options for preventing undesirable shifts or facilitating restoration or transformations to more desirable regimes. This project is being undertaken in collaboration with the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and also involves several student projects at Stellenbosch University that provide additional in-depth cases of regime shifts from southern Africa.

For more information see www.regimeshifts.org

Collaborating Institutes