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 : 2021-04-23 - 2022-04-22

The issues of climate change, dematerialization and circular economy have become important parts of the political agenda, including the Smart City Vienna Framework Strategy 2019-2050, which defines reduction of resource use as one of the three main goals and aims to reduce the city's GHG emissions, energy consumption and material footprint. However, Vienna's urban metabolism is anything but sustainable or circular. Vienna requires constant material inputs (creating a large footprint in the surrounding countryside) that accumulate in stocks or are released into nature as waste/emissions. The circular economy is therefore considered to play a key role in linking these goals and achieving an overall reduction in environmental pressures. The MoCAM project will produce an analysis of Vienna's societal metabolism, represented as material inputs, material outputs (waste, dissipative return to the environment), and GHG emissions, as well as derived indicators. Applying the concepts of circular economy and footprint perspective to the city level is challenging and has not been done before. The MoCAM project therefore provides the first integrated urban metabolism study that examines resource use across production and consumption (material inputs, stock accumulation, waste and emissions, footprints). The results will be discussed with policy makers of the City of Vienna and prepared for a monitoring of the Smart City Vienna framework strategy.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations