Modelling socioecological thresholds: predicting a safe and just operating space for humanity in the global ocean

Outline and objectives:
The global oceans represent a crucial component of the Earth’s system and provide billions of people with core ecosystem services. Yet there is high uncertainty about the ecological status of the worlds’ marine ecosystems and increasing evidence of ocean tipping points and regime shifts from multiple human pressures. The need for knowledge of resilience thresholds (tipping points) for human use of the world’s biosphere has been highlighted by the “Planetary Boundaries” framework, which aims to define a safe operating space for humanity on Earth. Recent progress has extended this framework to account for the needs of people, at both regional and global scales. What is currently lacking is knowledge of the trade-offs that exist among planetary boundaries; whether and how humanity can remain within the safety limits of ecosystems whilst simultaneously meeting societal needs – now and in the future.

Global marine modelling efforts have begun to link physical, ecological and human processes for predicting consequences of climate change in the oceans and can be used to assess resilience alongside empirical datasets. However dynamical feedbacks among these components and human drivers are not yet well developed. This project aims to develop a framework that predicts resilience thresholds of linked trophodynamic social-ecological systems by linking existing global marine ecosystem models and social network modelling extensive data on physical, biological and human variables.

Postdoctoral Fellow
Kirsty Nash

Mentoring and expertise committee
Julia Blanchard (
Beth Fulton, CSIRO
Rich Little, CSIRO
Ben Halpern, Imperial College London & University of California Santa Barbara
E.J. Milner Gulland, Imperial College London

Other Collaborative links
The project will also benefit from active collaboration with other members of the Centre for Marine Socioecology (Marcus Haward, Reg Watson and others) and through existing International programmes (e.g. the Inter Sectoral Impact – Model Intercomparison Project, International Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services).


Comments are closed