• Social-ecological systems
• Ecological economics
• Sustainability science
• Reconnecting development to the biosphere
• Seafood, marine ecosystems and governance
• Adaptive governance, stewardship and transformations
Folke is science director, co-founder and in the leadership of the SRC. He is also Director of the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
In addition to engagement with SRC research streams and themes, he is director of the Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere (GEDB) Academy Programme and principal investigator (with Gretchen Daily) of two Wallenberg Foundation Stanford collaboration programmes on ‘Natural capital, resilience and biosphere stewardship’ and ‘Fundamental research in biosphere-based sustainability science’. He is involved in the GRAID programme, the SeaBOS program, the Nereus Program, Predicting the Future Ocean, and recently in two Nordic Centre of Excellence (NorMer, GreenMar). Folke was also partner investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, JCU, Australia for about ten years.
Since the mid-1980s he has broken new grounds in understanding the dynamic interplay of humans and nature, of economy and ecology, and developed research on social-ecological systems and resilience thinking from management and stewardship of ecosystem services in the seas and on the land to global sustainability. He has more than 30 years of experience in collaborating across disciplines, has produced some three-hundred publications (>25 in high impact scientific journals, such as Nature, Science, and PNAS) and is recognized as a highly cited researcher. He has created inter- and transdisciplinary collaborative platforms and contributed to the development of new areas of research, concepts and approaches that have spread across science, education, policy and practice diciplines, and more recently into the business community. Folke’s work has illustrated how progress, prosperity and wellbeing will benefit from reconnecting development to the biosphere.
He has degrees in both economics, business, and administration, and in biology with a focus on ecology. Folke defended his PhD 1990 on the role of life-supporting ecosystems for social and economic development. He became an accociate professor in 1994, and full professor 1996 of natural resource management. He worked as Deputy Director of the Beijer Institute 1991-1996, Chair of the Natural Resource Management branch of Department of Systems Ecology 1997-2007 and Director of the Center for Transdisciplinary Environmental Research (CTM), Stockholm University 1999-2006.
He is among the founders of the Resilience Alliance, a board member, and in the Executive Committee (1999-2015). He was involved in the development of the International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE) working as Secretary of ISEE for about 5 years, and engaged in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the subglobal assessments in particular. Folke shares the position as Editor-in-Chief of Ecology and Society (with Lance Gunderson) and serves on the editorial board of about ten international journals.
He has taken part in the development of the South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies (SARAS), Maldonado, Uruguay. Currently, Folke serves on a number of scientific advisory boards, including the United Nations University’s Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (Tokyo, Japan), University of Helsinki’s Institute of Sustainability Science, HELSUS (Finland), the Swedish Institute for Global Health Transformation(SIGHT) of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation, University of Waterloo (Canada). Previous boards include: the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), the Stockholm Environment Institute, the STEPS Centre, and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy. He has served on boards and committees of research councils, UN organisations, the Swedish Government and various organizations in Sweden and internationally.
Folke is engaged with the Global Resilience Partnership (GRP) of the Swedish development agency, Sida, USAID, DFID, Zurich Insurance Group as well as other members of GRP’s partnership council. The GRP is focused on experimenting with new approaches to development aid. He is co-organizer of the Keystone Actors dialogues for ocean stewardship with leading multinational seafood businesses and the SeaBos initiative, member of the Advisory Board of EAT (food, health, sustainability), the Leadership Council of the Sustainable Development Solution Network (SDSN) Northern Europe, Chair of the Scientific Committee of the Volvo Environment Prize and Scientific Committee of the Kenneth E. Boulding Memorial Award. He has given well over 200 scientific presentations including keynotes and lectures worldwide, numerous public lectures and seminars for diverse audiences, and interviews in media. He has a long record of science, policy and practice collaboration, working with key actors from local landscapes in Sweden to international bodies and enterprises.
He started an institute for science communication, Albaeco, in the late 1990s and is genuinely engaged in the arts-science interface. He has developed several exhibitions like “Changing Matters – The Resilience Art Exhibition” 2008, “Reflections – On People and the Biosphere”, with installations at the art venue Artipelag 2014 and the Raoul Wallenberg Square 2015, Stockholm, and co-developed the exhibition Patterns of the Biosphere 2015 at Svenskt Tenn, Stockholm.
Awards and achievements
• Honorary doctorate, Wageningen University, the Netherlands 2018
• Honorary doctorate of science, Michigan State University, USA 2017
• Gunnerus Award in Sustainability Science 2017
• Elected Member (Foreign) of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences 2017
• International Geographical Union Planet and Humanity Medal 2016
• Honorary doctorate KU Leuven, Belgium 2015
• Social Capitalist of the Year award (w. Johan Rockström) 2010
• Sustainability Science Award of the Ecological Society of America 2004
• Elected member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2002
• The Centre Party’s Environmental Prize (a Swedish political party) 1998 “for his pioneering work with ecosystem services and ecological footprints”
• Pew Scholar Award in Conservation and the Environment 1995
Research news | 2019-04-09
Researchers present a new framework to resolve this question
Research news | 2019-01-31
Carl Folke, Brian Walker and Johan Rockström among researchers on exclusive list
Research news | 2018-12-03
Review paper summarizes scholarship of resilience and economics, and projects how management of resilience could benefit sustainability measurement
Research news | 2018-11-28
The seventh in a series of seven "deep dives" looking into the connections between resilience and development
2019 - Report
We have entered the urban century and addressing a broad suite of sustainability challenges in urban areas is increasingly key for our chances to transform the entire planet towards sustainability. For example, cities are responsible for 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions and, at the same time, 90% of urban areas are situated on coastlines, making the majority of the world’s population increasingly vulnerable to climate ch...
2019 - Journal / article
Radical recent developments such as Brexit, the rise of extreme nationalism, the gilets jaunes , polarizing leaders, the Arab Spring, and fundamentalist movements are indications of societal discontent with the status quo. Other societal phenomena such as gender fluidity, veganism, and bartering are also associated with a perceived need to change. The context is the Anthropocene, a human-dominated biosphere challenging the r...
2018 - Journal / article
The study of social-ecological systems (SES) has been significantly shaped by insights from research on complex adaptive systems (CAS). We offer a brief overview of the conceptual integration of CAS research and its implications for the advancement of SES studies and methods. We propose a conceptual typology of six organizing principles of CAS based on a comparison of leading scholars’ classifications of CAS features and prope...
2018 - Journal / article
We explore the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a “Hothouse Earth” pathway even as human emissions are reduced. Crossing the threshold would lead to a much higher global average temperature than any interglacial in the past 1.2 million years a...