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 : 2022-09-01 - 2024-02-29

Levels and structure of energy and resource demands are increasingly recognized as a key critical determinant of feasibility, timing, and costs of climate mitigation actions and their SDG synergies and tradeoffs. The higher the demand, the earlier, the more stringent, and the more costly climate mitigation will have to be. Conversely, lower demands increase the temporal flexibility of climate mitigation and reduce the stringency and costs of mitigation actions, thus also reducing the risks of SDG tradeoffs. Energy and resource demands themselves are intermediary variables, and it is the services and amenities that the use of energy and other resources provides. The efficiency of resource use and the efficiency of alternative service provision models thus moves into center stage of climate mitigation from a demand, or end-use perspective. Because of the high heterogeneity of consumers and the multitude of demand types (food, shelter, mobility, communication, etc.) the theoretical understanding and modeling of “demand” (outside aggregated simplistic formulation) remains limited and fragmented, as are resulting capabilities to propose and to assess demand-side policy interventions from the twin angle of climate mitigation as well as of promoting the SDGs. Overall project objectives 1. to improve the state-of-art of demand modeling in environmental and climate policy analysis, via methods and model intercomparisons and assisting the transfer of conceptual and methodological improvements across disciplines, sectors, and environmental domains. 2. to better inform policy via structured model experiments and simulations that assess potential impacts, barriers, as well as synergies and tradeoffs to other SDG objectives of demand-side policy interventions, particularly in novel fields and service provision models such as digitalization, sharing economy, or the integration of SDG and climate objectives in synergistic policy designs. 3. EDITS focuses on both the human and the technical resources by launching an expert network and a demand-side model comparison exercise. Specific objectives for BOKU in EDITS-3: - Contribute to ongoing research and reviewing efforts in the EDITS consortium, in relation to the previous objectives 1-3 - coordination of the industry reviewing working group - co-lead the review and research roadmap activities for industry, supply chains, and raw material demand modelling - contribution and interfacing with other working groups on narratives, scenarios, data, buildings- and other modelling aspects
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2023-01-01 - 2023-12-31

The European Long Term Ecosystem Research Network (LTER-Europe) establishes, since 2004, a permanent monitoring and research infrastructure in Europe. Since 2018, eLTER is on the roadmap of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures. One focus of LTER is on the interaction of social and ecological systems (LTSER). Thus, in addition to establishing permanent infrastructures for ecological monitoring, the network aspires to establish a systematic, harmonized collection of social, econoomic and socio-ecological data for specific regions, called LTSER Platforms. The question of what social, economic and socio-ecological data to collect to indicate trends in social-ecological system has been a perennial theoretical and applied challenge. Within the projects eLTER PPP and eLTER PLUS, which are dedicated to the development and formalization of the eLTER RI, the discussion process was structured and intensified and leading to the selection of social-ecological data to be collected for these platforms. In line with the ÖAW data call we want to select and collect – harmonized and along the current and formalized list of standard observations - essential socio-ecological data for monitoring the development of the socio-ecological system in the LTSER Platform Eisenwurzen.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2022-10-01 - 2024-12-31

The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) is a forum staffed by EU member states that provides a platform for establishing European research infrastructures of high strategic relevance. The ESFRI Roadmap is published every two to four years as an agreed list of priorities. Included infrastructures have ten years to formalize as legal entities. As of September 2018, the Integrated European Long-Term Ecosystem, critical zone and socio-ecological systems Research Infrastructure (eLTER RI) is on ESFRI's roadmap. On February 1, 2020, the Preparatory Phase Project, funded by the European Commission, began. The five-year project is for detailed planning of the eLTER RI. Another H2020 project, eLTER-PLUS, is for accompanying scientific research. The operators of the national eLTER sites and their financial backers (largely the federal ministries) are required to contribute concerted Austrian positions to the eLTER RI detailed planning and implementation.The organization of the national process serves the following key objectives: -structuring of opinion formation on eLTER design and services in the areas of responsibility of the ministries concerned,-coordination of (1) expert contributions from site-operating institutions and scientific teams with (2) strategic aspects from the institutional management level (top-down, executive boards, directorates, rectorates),-creation of a platform for national opinion and strategy formation, -Interface between opinion and strategy formation of the site coordinations and their institutional representatives with the formal representation of Austria in the European eLTER ESFRI process,-Time and cost efficient representation of Austria in the eLTER Interim Council as the central decision making body for the design and implementation of the eLTER RI.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations