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 : 2023-05-01 - 2024-12-31

A carefully designed stakeholder process and effective science-policy engagement is critically important for the AAR2. The engagement process assures policy relevance of the report and facilitates the joint identification of key policy questions, thus assuring that the report can provide the necessary evidence-base for effective policy decisions in Austria and contribute to increased awareness about climate change including options for mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to unavoidable impacts.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2023-10-01 - 2025-09-30

The long-term goal of ESALUISA is to develop a satellite-driven decision-support tools that informs national-scale carbon mitigation planning, i.e. the indicator framework “Human Appropriation of Net Primary Production” (HANPP). Africa is experiencing several socioecological changes that will fundamentally alter the location and extent of its croplands, grazing land, forests and built-up areas in the future. This shift will have a tremendous impact on the global carbon cycle. The population in Africa is growing far faster than in any other region of the world, by 2050 it will account for 65% of global population growth. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations and surface temperatures will continue to rise and precipitation is projected to become more variable. In particular, African drylands, such as the Sahel region, which support 75% of the continent’s agriculture, are highly susceptible to climate extremes (droughts and heat waves). Forests in Africa account for half of the interannual variability in global terrestrial CO2 emissions and the encroachment of smallholder farms into woody areas near urban centers is the number one driver of CO2 emissions on the continent. The project aims at establishing HANPP as an integrated macroscale socioecological indicator in order to advance the understanding of the drivers, dynamics and mechanisms of land use-carbon dynamics as well as their trade-offs, at the regional to continental scale in Africa.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2023-10-01 - 2025-09-30

The city of Vienna rapidly shifted to natural gas in 1969-1978. We combine energy history with a transition research approach and analyze a broad corpus of textual sources and statistical records to trace the governance structures enabling the shift to natural gas and the biophysical development of the Vienna gas grid. Addressing energy transitions not just as technical, but also as sociopolitical processes will enable us to draw lessons for present challenges in urban energy transitions.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations