Wednesday 7
A global comparison of drivers and ecosystem service impacts of regime shifts
Reinette (oonsie) Biggs
› 14:35 - 15:30 (55min)
› Antigone 3
The Regime Shifts Database: Analytical framework & comparison of ecosystem service impacts
Reinette (oonsie) Biggs  2, 1@  , Garry Peterson  1@  , Juan Rocha  1@  
2 : Stellenbosch University
1 : Stockholm University

[Talk in session: A global comparison of drivers and ecosystem service impacts of regime shifts]

As pressures on the planet continue to grow, there is an increasing risk of regime shifts – large, nonlinear and potentially irreversible changes in social-ecological systems that can have major impacts on ecosystem services and human wellbeing. This talk is the first in a session that presents and discusses insights from the Regime Shifts Database (, a synthetic online database that aims to systematically compare the drivers and consequences of different regime shifts that have been documented in social-ecological systems around the world. In this talk we introduce the framework we have developed for synthesizing and comparing regime shifts, as well as an initial comparison of the ecosystem service impacts of different regime shifts.

For each regime shift in the database, the framework we have developed draws on the published literature to describe the potential regimes that exist; the feedbacks that maintain each regime; the multiple drivers that can cause the system to shift from one regime to another; the impact of the regime shift on ecosystem services; and, the consequences of the regime shift for different sectors of society. In addition, we identify key leverage points that can be manipulated to change the dynamics of the system in ways that enhance resilience or enable restoration or transformation towards more desirable regimes, as well as the key ecosystems and land uses under which the regime shift has been documented, the time and spatial scale over which it occurs, links to other regime shifts, and the levels of uncertainty surrounding the existence of the particular regime shift and its underlying dynamics. We use simple systems models to synthesize this information.

Our initial comparative analyses indicate that the ecosystems most affected by regime shifts are marine systems and freshwater lakes and rivers. Biodiversity is impacted by almost all regime shifts, and primary production and nutrient cycling are the most affected ecosystem processes. The most impacted ecosystem services include fisheries, wild plant and animal products, water purification, recreation and aesthetic values. The primary impacts on human well-being include livelihoods and economic activity, food and nutrition, and cultural, aesthetic and recreational values. The next talk in the session will present an analysis of the drivers of regime shifts, based on the examples in the database.

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