Wednesday 7
Analysing and managing social-ecological regime shifts
Steven Lade
› 11:35 - 12:30 (55min)
› Antigone 3
The value-added of laboratory experiments for the study of social-ecological regime shifts
Caroline Schill  1, 2@  , Therese Lindahl  1, 2@  , Anne-Sophie Crépin  1, 2@  
1 : The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics  -  Website
2 : Stockholm Resilience Centre

Various ecosystems have already undergone, or will experience, regime shifts that can lead to substantial decrease in the availability of provisioning ecosystem services crucial for sustaining livelihoods. In light of recent research suggesting that the frequency and intensity of regime shifts will rise due to increasing human pressures on the biosphere, such as climate change, pollution, or resource extraction, it is crucial to better understand how local resource users deal with the potentiality of abrupt, drastic, and perhaps irreversible, changes in the provision of ecosystem services they rely upon. Here, we focus on regime shifts in a social-ecological system: abrupt ecological changes are triggered only by endogenous management actions, with consequences both for the social and the ecological system domains. So far, our understanding of the social mechanisms underlying regime shifts is based solely on theoretical models. Collecting empirical data on regime shifts in social-ecological systems is challenging and time consuming because it requires precise information about the situation before and after the shift. Moreover, regime shifts are difficult to anticipate; they come mostly by surprise and even though early warning signals have been proposed, it is not clear whether those can inform policy makers soon enough in order to avert regime shifts. Applying the method of laboratory behavioral experiments does not only provide us with empirical data, but also allows us to actually test the accuracy of the behavioral assumptions underlying the theoretical models on which our knowledge in this research field is currently based upon and to test the experimental design before taking it to the field. In this paper, we present a novel experimental design to test various features connected with social-ecological regime shifts in a commons dilemma: the effect of the predictability of a potential regime shift, the effect of graphical information, and the effect of various policies, like fishing quotas, on resource users' behavior. We summarize the results of our experimental program which suggest that potential regime shifts heavily influence individual and group behavior and consequently decision-making. However, the main aim of this paper is to show how the experimental method can add value to the study of social-ecological regime shifts, which is why this work can be a valuable contribution to the session “Analysing and managing social-ecological regime shifts”.

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