Safeguarding Freshwater Resilience in the Anthropocene

Teleconnections and Feedbacks


Disturbances in the global water cycle are becoming increasingly widespread, and pose complex and interacting risks that we do not yet fully understand. Hydroclimatic changes drive abrupt and persistent changes in ecosystems, which in turn can have both local and remote impacts on biodiversity, carbon sinks, rainfall, and agriculture. At the same time, extreme events such as droughts are becoming increasingly likely to occur simultaneously in multiple places in the world. 

In the Anthropocene, risks and resilience losses interact and propagate globally through both biophysical and socioeconomic flows - such as atmospheric dynamics and trade. This means that even countries with relatively low local water risks - such as Sweden -  cannot detach themselves from the rising threats of global water resilience risks. 

However, water resilience risks are not yet well quantified. For example, water risks assessments in trade contexts typically focus on water availability, and rarely consider the embodied import and export of underlying water resilience losses. 

The aim of the SAFER project is to address this gap, by analyzing how severe and widespread loss of water resilience in the Anthropocene impacts distant countries through biophysical and socioeconomic flows, and generating knowledge on how to safeguard water resilience locally, regionally, and globally. 

Project SAFER (2023-2026) is funded by Formas (A Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development), and is a collaboration among researchers from Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University in Sweden, Princeton University in the US, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, Politecnico di Torino in Italy, Northeastern University in the US, and WaterAid in Sweden.  

The project has emerged from collaborations forged through the Water Resilience group at Stockholm Resilience Centre, the Earth Resilience and Sustainability Initiative, and the ERC project Earth Resilience in the Anthropocene