The EU has recently published a “Circular Economy Package”, introducing various measures designed to advance the transition to a circular economy. Among these is a monitoring system that can assess progress towards a circular economy. The foundations for this monitoring framework were developed by the Institute of Social Ecology in Vienna in collaboration with the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in Ispra.
Human biomass utilization reduces global carbon stocks in vegetation by 50%, implying that massive emissions of CO2 to the atmosphere have occurred over the past centuries and millennia. The contribution of forest management and livestock grazing on natural grasslands to global carbon losses is of similar magnitude as that of deforestation. Currently, these effects are underappreciated in existing global carbon models and assessments of the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from land-based production. Without full consideration of land management effects, global climate forecasts and calculations of the GHG effects of future bioenergy policies are error prone, seriously jeopardizing the robust evaluation of measures that would help achieving the 1,5°C target of the Paris Agreement. These are some of the result of a study headed by Karl-Heinz Erb from the Institute of Social Ecology, published in the scientific journal “Nature” on 20.12.2017.
A global conversion to organic farming can contribute to a profoundly sustainable food system, provided that it is combined with further measures, specifically with a one-third reduction of animal-based products in the human diet, less concentrated feed and less food waste. At the same time, this type of food system has extremely positive ecological effects, i.e. considerable reduction of fertilizers and pesticides, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions – and does not lead to increased land use, despite lower agricultural yields. These are the findings of a new study, which included the Vienna-based Department of Social Ecology among its contributors. Results have recently been published in “Nature Communications”.
In the last decades social ecology has made important contributions to sustainability research. As the science of societal relationship to nature it evolved in the late 1980s. Today, the approach that understands complex environmental problems to be rooted in the critical relationship between society and nature is regarded to be fundamental for research dealing with sustainable development. Now, with a special issue of the renowned international journal ‘Sustainability’ a comprehensive insight is given to the state of the art of social-ecological research.
How many species will remain, if we use land in a certain way and climate change continues to progress? Iwona Dullinger addresses this question in her research for her doctoral thesis at the Institute of Social Ecology. We now know that land use and climate change are the two main drivers of biodiversity loss. Yet, to date, research has rarely considered them jointly. Dullinger hopes to close this research gap.
Grants awarded by the European Research Council are among the most prestigious research prizes European researchers can hope to attract. Human Ecologist Helmut Haberl (Institute of Social Ecology) is the most recent recipient of an Advanced ERC Grant, valued at almost 2.5 million EURO over a period of five years. Together with his collaborators in the Institute of Social Ecology and at Humboldt University, Helmut Haberl will investigate the role of material stocks for the development towards a sustainable society.
Der Anbau international gehandelter Lebensmittel zapft immer größere Mengen an nicht-erneuerbarem Grundwasser an. Dies führt dazu, dass die Grundwasservorräte schrumpfen – die zukünftige Verfügbarkeit von Lebensmitteln und Wasser gerät damit weltweit in Gefahr, warnt ein internationales Forscherteam im Fachblatt „Nature”. Laut den Expertinnen und Experten des University College of London, des Senckenberg, der Alpen-Adria-Universität, der NASA and des International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, ist die Menge an nicht-erneuerbarem Grundwasser, das zur Bewässerung genutzt wird, von 2000 bis 2010 um knapp ein Viertel angestiegen.
Michael Gizicki-Neundlinger has carried out a case study exploring agriculture around Castle Grafenegg in Lower Austria during the 1830s. The social ecologist is convinced that the insights gained from the study could be used to better understand the state of current global agriculture.
A team of researchers led by scientists from the Institute of Social Ecology at AAU has recently presented the first global estimate of the volume of natural resources accumulated in buildings and infrastructure. According to their calculations, global in-use stocks of materials rose 23-fold between 1900 and 2010, harboring long-term consequences for loop closure and emissions.
Managing grazing on grasslands in a more efficient way could significantly increase global milk and meat production or free up land for other uses.