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 : 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.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2021-07-01 - 2022-12-31

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-2: - 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 : 2021-10-01 - 2024-09-30

he Global South has for several decades now been demanding to simplify and improve conditions for technology transfer, not only, but especially in climate change and sustainability discussions. Technology transfer being dominated by the Global North has led to substantial power asymmetries which are only slowly beginning to change their dynamics through the rise of emerging economies in the Global South. This is where the new institution of the Global Network of Regional Sustainable Energy Centres comes in which promotes itself as a South-South partnership and also aims at contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (GN-SEC 2018). The doctoral project is interested in the discussion about technology transfer and a potential new direction this South-South cooperation might contribute to the unidirectional way that development aid and technology used to flow from the Global North to the Global South. This South-South cooperation with the objective of improving the access to sustainable energy and climate technologies is essential in changing the game because it connects different regions of the Global South for whom the topic of technology transfer is very important. This doctoral project aims at investigating if the global network can initiate new power relations in the Global South. The overarching research question asks how the Regional Sustainable Energy Centres strengthen South-South Cooperation and contribute to the SDGs that form part of the centres’ objectives. There are three sub-research questions. First, how do the selected centres work, what topics do they focus on and which role do the three selected SDGs and their implementation play? Second, how is expertise about sustainability, renewable energy and energy efficiency being developed in and by the Sustainable Energy Centres? And third, how is the South-South cooperation implemented by the centres and can the centres contribute to a new balance of powers by strengthening the South-South cooperation?

Supervised Theses and Dissertations