Photo: Udo Wagner

Marine ecological-economic systems in the Western Baltic Sea and beyond: Shifting the baseline to a regime of sustainability

Project overview

marEEshift pursues the following overall scientific aims:

1. identify processes that increase or decrease the resilience of marine ecological-economic systems.

2. identify and initiate measures, institutions, and processes that could foster a resilient ecological-economic system of marine resource use in a regime of sustainability. This may require a regime shift from the current state of over-use towards a new resilient regime of sustainability.

To achieve these aims, we will study historical regime shifts in the Western Baltic Sea and beyond. We will explore the combinations of ecological, environmental (incl. climate-related), economic, social, and political drivers that have caused tipping points in the Western Baltic Sea and in cod-fisheries throughout the Northern Atlantic in the past.

In addition to that, we will study the effects of environmental change as well as multi-species interactions and multiple stakeholders on the resilience of the Western Baltic marine ecological-economic system, where commercial and recreational fisheries on cod and herring interact.

Besides analyzing what a regime of sustainability would be in the context of this specific ecological-economic system, we will explore the potential for a shift towards a regime of sustainability for the Western Baltic as a model case.

Granting agency: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Project duration: 2019-2022

Work packages (WP)

WP 1: Engagement, management & outreach

WP 1 will coordinate marEEshift’s transdisciplinary engagement with stake- and knowledge-holders outside academia, facilitate collaboration within the consortium and with international scientific partners, and will be responsible for outreach activities and communication of key results towards the broader public. WP 1 is designed to foster the production and uptake of innovative and actionable science.

WP 2: Evidence for tipping points

The contribution of WP 2 will be empirical evidence for tipping points and regime changes in the ecological-economic system of Western Baltic cod and herring fisheries. The analyses will investigate regime shift dynamics during the past four decades based on quantitative monitoring data. These studies will be informed by narratives and assessments of non-academic experts on the historical development in the Western Baltic fishery.

To assess the robustness, relevance, and validity of results obtained for our case study system, WP 2 will further study evidence for tipping points at larger temporal and spatial scales. A key characteristic of the analyses thus is the cross-scale approach that provides a longer-term perspective on regime changes for the Western Baltic herring fishery using semi-quantitative and qualitative data provided by citizen science approaches. A larger spatial perspective is achieved by meta-analyses of North Atlantic cod stocks (see initial analyses in results of the pre-phase), that are template examples of fisheries collapses worldwide. Quantitative analyses on the temporal occurrence and changes in external drivers will be conducted using novel, non-linear statistical approaches.

WP 3: Reasons for regime shifts

WP 3 addresses the question why a regime shift occurs, i.e. it aims at a process-based understanding of reasons for regime shifts. We will first address this question with generic models that feature the key processes at work in ecological-economic systems. Then we will add empirically derived motivations and preferences for different user groups, in order to build a detailed ecological economic model, which is tailored to the Western Baltic Sea fishery.  As we are especially interested in future shifts towards a desired regime of sustainability, the final model will be able to answer why a regime shift should occur, and to which regime.

WP 4: Governance & agency

WP 4 will focus on the actors: Who is affected in which way by regime shifts? Who has been responsible for past regime shifts and who should take responsibility for achieving a regime of sustainability? How should a new system of sustainability for the Western Baltic Sea look like and how could it be implemented?

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