Causal-loop diagram of Bush Encroachment – for more info, see

Project lead: Oonsie Biggs

Who’s involved?: Garry Peterson, Juan Rocha, Daniel Ospina, Linda Luvuno

Project description: This project focuses on the risk of transgressing critical thresholds or tipping points in social‐ecological systems that could trigger catastrophic regime shifts– large, abrupt and potentially irreversible changes – with respect to critical ecosystem services such as crop production, fisheries, and climate regulation. Such shifts can have major implications for human economies, health and well‐being, especially for poorer, marginalized groups in society.

This project has three key activities:

  1. Developing a Regime Shifts Database ( to provide a high-quality synthesis of different types of regime shifts that have been documented in social-ecological systems, their impacts on ecosystem services, and management options.
  2. Developing methods for assessing which areas are most vulnerable to particular regime shifts, using GIS and remote sensing methods.
  3. Examining the economic trade-offs associated with balancing the risk of potential regime shifts against the benefits of ecosystem exploitation.

This project involves an active collaboration with researchers at the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden, and involves cases in Southern Africa and globally. The project is currently funded by a fellowship from the Swiss Society in Science Foundation awarded to Oonsie Biggs, and additional student funding from Formas, the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Science and Spatial Planning.

More information: