Regime Shifts

Regime shifts are defined as "large, persistent changes in the structure and function of social-ecological systems, with substantive impacts on the suite of ecosystem services provided by these systems." (

Working Groups

Transformations Working Group. The working group on Transformation proposes a framework that outlines the process and phases of transformative change in SESs in "Changing the frame: towards a transdisciplinary analytical framework for understanding social-ecological transformations" part of a special issue of Ecology & Society "Exploring Social-Ecological Resilience through the Lens of the Social Sciences: Contributions, Critical Reflections and Constructive Debate". Following a presentation at the Earth System Governance conference held at UEA (Norwich, UK) in July 2014, the group plans to build on this framework and apply it to a variety of case studies.


Regime Shifts DataBase. The Regime Shifts Database aims to synthesize and compare different examples of regime shifts that have been documented in social-ecological systems. The database focuses specifically on regime shifts that have large impacts on ecosystem services and human well-being. The database consists of 2 hierarchical levels: 1) general types of regime shifts, e.g. bush encroachment, and 2) specific case studies of regime shifts, e.g. bush encroachment on communal rangelands in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Led by Oonsie Biggs and Garry Peterson.

Arctic Resilience Report. An analysis of thresholds affecting Arctic ecosystem services and the ability of ecosystems and society to adapt or transform. ARR Interim Report.

Selected Publications

Biggs, R., T. Blenckner, C. Folke, L. Gordon, A. Norström, M. Nyström, and G.D. Peterson. 2012. Regime Shifts. In: Encyclopedia of Theoretical Ecology. A. Hastings, L. Gross (eds). University of California Press, Ewing, NJ, USA.

Scheffer, M. 2009. Critical transitions in Nature and Society. Princeton University Press.

Scheffer, M., S.R. Carpenter, J.A. Foley, C. Folke and B.H. Walker. 2001. Catastrophic shifts in ecosystems. Nature 413:591-596.

Hughes, T.P., C. Linares, V. Dakos, I.A. Van De Leemput, and E.H. Van Nes. 2013. Living dangerously on borrowed time during slow, unrecognized regime shifts. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 28(3): 149-155.

Kofinas, G., D. Clark, G. K. Hovelsrud, L. Alessa, H. Amundsen, M. Berman, F. Berkes, F. S. Chapin III, B. Forbes, J. Ford, C. Gerlach, and J. Olsen. 2013. Adaptive and Transformative Capacity. In Arctic Council. Arctic Resilience Interim Report. Stockholm Environment Institute and Stockholm Resilience Centre. Stockholm. pp. 71-91.

Keywords: regime shifts, transformation, thresholds, stability, state change, planetary boundaries