We aim to describe the interaction between social and natural systems, which we see as co-evolutionary, in scientifically sound theoretical and methodological terms.

The two concepts of social metabolism and the colonization of natural systems constitute the core of our socio-ecological theory. These concepts draw from quite differing scientific traditions - biology, sociology, economics, technical sciences, history, geography and cultural anthropology - and offer a coherent perspective on the society-nature relationship.

This perspective guides us conceptually and practically in developing information systems for the environmental consequences of human activity ("pressures upon the environment"). It also orients us in our research on ecological and socio-economic aspects of sustainable development at the local, national and global levels.

Our methodological spectrum includes material and energy flow analysis (MFA and EFA), geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing methods, systemic actor-oriented and organizational analyses, and the use of historical sources. We make increasing use of modelling techniques for data simulation, a synthetic presentation of results and as a basis for scenarios. Our culture of stable interdisciplinary cooperation and intensive teamwork make this spectrum possible.

Thematic Areas

  • Social Metabolism
  • Land Use and Colonizations of Ecosystems
  • Long-term socio-ecological research and environmental history
  • Social-Ecological Transformations
  • Integrated Socio-Ecological Modelling

Latest SCI publications

Latest Projects

Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2022-03-15 - 2023-03-14

Within the SDGs as well as the Smart City Vienna Framework Strategy 2019-2050, the circular economy plays a key role in linking different policy goals such as resource efficiency, decarbonisation and reducing pressures on the environment. Vienna’s urban metabolism is assumed to be far from circular, as cities require continuous material inputs that accumulate in material stocks or are released into the environment (wastes and emissions). The VICE project applies the concept of social metabolism, with its macroeconomic perspective of the circular economy, to the city of Vienna by that linking resource inputs via physical stocks to wastes and emissions, and identifying any circular pathways therein. VICE considers Vienna as nested in its domestic hinterland and the (inter)national economy, and will therefore also integrate upstream resource requirements (footprints). In addition to the comprehensive analysis of the city’s metabolism, in-depth assessments will be conducted for (1) the built environment and (2) the bio-economy, and the potential role of both in a circular urban (bio)economy. The results from these two focal studies will be integrated into the comprehensive circular economy framework for the city of Vienna to then identify options for policy action, in particular the Smart City Vienna Framework Strategy as well as the SDGs 8, 11, 12, 13.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2021-11-01 - 2024-10-31

UNRAVEL aims at unravelling the option spaces for wood production compatible with sustainability targets. It quantifies and assesses, for Austria. UNRAVEL turns around conventional research questions that usually quantify impacts of different forest use strategies on carbon dynamics, and seeks answers to the following question: how much wood can be supplied while opti-mizing the C sink strength of forests, taking into consideration trade-offs with other ecosystem services and biodiversity? With this innovative research strategy, the project overcomes the intricacies related to the choice of appropriate reference level inherent to the mainstream approaches. It will thus unravel the option spaces for wood production compatible with sustaina-bility targets. It has the following objectives: 1. Starting from the premise that C sequestration is an urgent goal to maintain viable living conditions, quantify the wood supply potentials when optimizing the C sink strength of forests and preserving biodiversity. 2. Further develop methods and quantifying the potential for forest C sequestration in biomass and soils under expected climate change, in dependence of varying levels of forest management. 3. Derive specific targets for forest C sequestration for Austria 2070 and 2100, complying with the Paris Agreement path-ways, and identify compatible levels of wood extraction, taking global wood product chains into account and following different rationales of accounting and responsibility (extraction-based, consumption-based, income-based). 4. Assess trade-offs between forest C sequestration and wood provision, dead-wood use or conservation, or wood for en-ergy vs. wood for products, and their interlinkages with other ecosystem services such as biodiversity, and thus delineate the biophysical option space for sustainable wood use in Austria. 5. provide nuanced information on sustainable forest biomass use in the context of climate change to stakeholders.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2021-01-01 - 2023-12-31

EPICUR, the European Partnership for an Innovative Campus Unifying Regions, is a first-generation European University Alliance, dedicated to shaping European Society in Transition through the development of collaborative inter- and transdisciplinary teaching and learning. Now that the alliance seeks funding to establish its complementary research agenda, EPICUR expands its breadth to include research, innovation and interaction with society, and will be addressing all four corners of the European knowledge square. EPICUR is convinced that future EPICUR research can make a difference in the following ways: As our alliance believes that international collaboration fosters scientific and societal progress, EPICUR will develop a joint research agenda and deploy an inter- and transdisciplinary approach to tackle pressing research questions, which we call EPIChallenges. EPICUR identified early career researchers as the primary target group to experiment with new formats for virtual networking and shaping their academic careers. They will be invited to co-create the EPICommunity, a new social media network based on an attractive gamification design. This network offers new tools that will help raise the visibility of scientific achievements and skill sets, as well as facilitating blended mobility. EPICUR researchers will be encouraged to team-up in EPIClusters, experimental open research formats to tackle EPIChallenges together with partners from sectors outside academia and to pilot the sharing of the consortium's cutting-edge research infrastructures. As proud member of the first cohort of European Universities alliances, EPICUR will build intelligent connections to our peer alliances in EPIConnect, to facilitate the preparation of joint policy recommendations for shaping the Universities of the Future.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations