Modeling Social–Ecological Scenarios in Marine Systemse


Österblom, H., Merrie, A., Metian, M., Boonstra, W.J., Blenckner, T., Watson, J.R., Rykaczewski, R.R., Ota, Y., Sarmiento, J.L., Christensen, V., Schlüter, M., Birnbaum, S., Gustafsson, B., Humborg, C., Mörth, C-M., Müller-Karulis, B., Tomczak, M.T., Troell, M., and Folke, C.


BioScience , Vol. 63, No. 9 (September 2013), pp. 735-744


Human activities, leading to e.g. eutrophication and overexploitation of resources, have substantial impacts on marine ecosystems and thus large consequences for human well-being, e.g. through changes in the provisioning of ecosystem services.

The development of strategies for enabling society to adapt and continue to develop in the face of such changes is a key challenge for policy makers and resource managers.

In a study published in BioScience in September 2013, based on work in e.g. the “Regime shifts in the Baltic Sea ecosystem”-project, researchers from BNI Sweden together with international colleagues attempt to bridge the gap between ecological and social systems understanding in order to develop integrated social-ecological scenarios that can facilitate adaptive governance.

The necessity of integrating natural and social sciences for adaptive governance

The natural sciences have a long history of developing scenarios, but rarely with an in-depth understanding of factors influencing human actions. On the other hand, social scientists have traditionally investigated human behavior but often argue that behavior is too complex to be represented by broad generalizations useful for model and scenarios.

Through a framework for integrated marine social–ecological scenarios, where quantitative process-based models from decades of experience of model-building in the biogeochemical and ecological disciplines are combined with qualitative studies on governance and social change, the research group has tried to address this scientific divide.

Developing policy-relevant scenarios

The aim of this interdisciplinary cooperation is to develop policy-relevant scenarios, based on an in-depth empirical understanding from both the natural and the social sciences, that present possible futures for marine social-ecological systems at regional (international) and global scales, focusing on fisheries, aquaculture and land-use changes related to nutrient emissions.

Adaptive governance emphasizes the interplay of science, policy and practitioners for creating conditions that will enable relevant authorities to cope with uncertainty and change.

These scenarios can hopefully inspire and facilitate adaptive governance through dialogues with decision makers and other stakeholders, helping them to visualize and assess alternative futures and options in order to make better decisions and enable change toward desirable trajectories for our valuable oceans.

Download the article, “Modeling Social-Ecological Scenarios in Marine Systems” here

Related information and articles:

Read more about BNI´s Decision Support System Nest, instrumental for the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan, here

Making the ecosystem approach operational— Can regime shifts in ecological- and governance systems facilitate the transition?


Published September 2013

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Updated: 2014-01-14
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