Foto: Brussels

Spatial patterns of built structures (here: buildings and transport infrastructures in Brussels, train station Bruxelles-Nord) strongly affect practices of being mobile. For example, in a city prevalence of active mobility (bicycles, walking), use of public transit (trains, buses, metro, etc.) or cars will strongly depend on urban form and transport infrastructures. This has strong effects on resource requirements and emissions resulting from personal transport. Photo: © Helmut Haberl, 2017.

Research gap addressed by MATSTOCKS

Sustainability transformations imply fundamental changes in the societal use of biophysical resources. Previous social metabolism research traced flows of energy, materials or substances to capture resource use: input of raw materials or energy, their fate in production and consumption, and the discharge of wastes and emissions. This approach yielded important insights into eco-efficiency and long-term drivers of resource use. But due to its focus on flows, socio-metabolic research had until recently not yet fully incorporated the role of material stocks: their composition, global distribution, dynamics over time, spatial patterns, the services they generate, and the more or less resource intensive practices they encourage or discourage.

Main output of MATSTOCKS

•    Consistent typology, indicators and databases of material stocks and their services, building upon economy-wide material flow analysis and dynamic modelling approaches.
•    Development of the inflow-driven model MISO 2 which calculates material stocks globally for 1900-2016 as well as for future scenarios, thereby considering 14 supply-chain processes as well as trade between 177 countries.
•    Creation of a comprehensive, global, national-level, validated database of material stocks for the time period 1900-2016, distinguishing 20 types of stock-building materials, 13 different end-uses (e.g., roads, buildings or vehicles),
•    Development of methods to assess mass of built structures based on data from earth observation and remote sensing at high (10-100m) spatial and thematic resolution; this also included development of new methods to calculate building height, as well as combining data from remote sensing and crowdsourcing (e.g., Open Street Map) for calculating area of transport infrastructures and volume/type of buildings, in collaboration with the Geography Department of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin).
•    Maps of material stocks in built structures (various types of buildings, roads and railroads) for Austria, Germany, the UK and the conterminous USA at high spatial (10m) and thematic (10-20 material types, ~10 types of different built structures) resolution for the year 2018. For Austria and Germany, spatially explicit data on material stocks, dwellings, and work spaces were developed covering 30m spatial resolution for the last 33 years. Global maps of global material stocks in buildings (in collaboration with German Aerospace) and infrastructures, and of urban sprawl in Austria (in collaboration with the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development).
•    Development of a model to calculate bulk material stocks in the global power sector (power plants, grids) and scenarios to 2050.
•    A large array of conceptual papers, reviews as well as empirical analyses were supported by these data and models or inspired by the empirical and modelling work, among others:
     o  Statistical assessments of the role of size and spatial patterns of built structures as co-determinants of material and energy use as well as CO2 emissions
     o  Conceptual publications on energy and material services and provisioning systems
     o  Conceptual publications on stock-flow-service and stock-flow-practice phenomena
     o  Reviews on decoupling, the circular economy, and various other aspects of social metabolism

A new perspective on sustainability

A new perspective on sustainability

A radically different approach to the use of land, energy and materials will be required if we are to build a more sustainable society, yet modern lifestyles often revolve around established patterns of resource use. The MAT_STOCKS project aims to build detailed databases of material stocks and services and gain new insights into patterns of resource use, as Helmut Haberl explains in EU Reseach, Winter 2019, p. 39)

Key Publications

Wiedenhofer, D. et al., forthcoming. From extraction to end-uses and waste management: modelling economy-wide material cycles and stock dynamics around the world. Journal of Industrial Ecology.

Wiedenhofer, D. et al., 2024. Mapping and modelling global mobility infrastructure stocks, material flows and their embodied greenhouse gas emissions. Journal of Cleaner Production, 434, 139742.

Frantz, D. et al., 2023. Unveiling patterns in human dominated landscapes through mapping the mass of US built structures. Nature Communications, 14, 8014.

Haberl, H. et al., 2023. Built structures influence patterns of energy demand and CO2 emissions across countries. Nature Communications, 14, 3898.

Schug, F. et al., 2023. High-resolution mapping of 33 years of material stock and population growth in Germany using Earth Observation data. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 27, 110-124.

Kalt, G., P. Thunshirn, F. Krausmann, H. Haberl, 2022. Material requirements of global electricity sector pathways to 2050 and associated greenhouse gas emissions. Journal of Cleaner Production, 358, 132014.

Virág, D. et al., 2022. How much infrastructure is required to support decent mobility for all? An explorative assessment. Ecological Economics, 200, 107511.

Haberl, H. et al., 2021. Stocks, flows, services and practices: Nexus approaches to sustainable social metabolism. Ecological Economics, 182, 106949.

Schaffartzik, A. et al., 2021. The transformation of provisioning systems from an integrated perspective of social metabolism and political economy: A conceptual framework. Sustainability Science, 16, 1405-1421.

Wiedenhofer, D. et al., 2021. Prospects for a saturation of humanity’s resource use? An analysis of material stocks and flows in nine world regions from 1900 to 2035. Global Environmental Change, 71, 102410.

Haberl, H. et al., 2020. A systematic review of the evidence on decoupling of economic growth, resource use and GHG emissions, part II: synthesizing the insights. Environmental Research Letters, 15, 065003.

Krausmann, F., D. Wiedenhofer, H. Haberl, 2020. Growing stocks of buildings, infrastructures and machinery as key challenge for compliance with climate targets. Global Environmental Change, 61, 102034.

Kalt, G., D. Wiedenhofer, C. Görg, H. Haberl, 2019. Conceptualizing energy services: A review of energy and well-being along the Energy Service Cascade. Energy Research & Social Sciences, 53, 47-58.

Haberl, H. et al., 2019. Contributions of socio-metabolic research to sustainability science. Nature Sustainability, 2, 173–184.

Preparatory studies

Krausmann, F. et al., 2017. Global socioeconomic material stocks rise 23-fold over the 20th century and require half of annual resource use. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114, 1880–1885. 

Görg, C. et al., 2017. Challenges for Social-Ecological Transformations: Contributions from Social and Political Ecology. Sustainability, 9, 1045.

Haberl, H. et al., 2017. The Material Stock-Flow-Service Nexus: A New Approach for Tackling the Decoupling Conundrum. Sustainability, 9, 1049.

Methodological foundations

Wiedenhofer, D. et al., 2019. Integrating Material Stock Dynamics Into Economy-Wide Material Flow Accounting: Concepts, Modelling, and Global Application for 1900–2050. Ecological Economics, 156, 121–133.

Krausmann, F. et al., 2017. Material Flow Accounting: Measuring Global Material Use for Sustainable Development. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 42, 647–675.