Circular Economy in the EU: Measures and a new Monitoring Framework

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.

Read more

Human impacts on forests and grasslands much larger and older than previously assumed

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.

Read more

The river, a legal entity

In November 2016, the Constitutional Court of Colombia decided to grant the Río Atrato personality rights. The judgement was published in May 2017. As part of his doctoral thesis, the geographer Moremi Zeil is investigating the framework conditions, causes and – above all – the consequences of this judgement. 

Read more

When forests regrow: ERC Starting Grant for sustainability researcher Simone Gingrich

In many industrialised countries, forests are starting to regrow after centuries or millennia of large-scale deforestation. This appears positive for the global climate system, because forests sequester carbon that would otherwise accumulate in the atmosphere. However, forest regrowth may not necessarily be a viable strategy for climate-change mitigation. Simone Gingrich has been awarded a prestigious ERC Starting Grant and plans to use it to identify and analyse the “hidden emissions” of reforestation processes.

Read more

Current insights into social ecology: special issue of the journal ‚Sustainability‘ published

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.

Read more

On the outrage over how one single species treats the other species

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.

Read more

Durstige Landwirtschaft: Übermäßige Grundwassernutzung bedroht Lebensmittelversorgung weltweit

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.

Read more

Grasslands hold potential for increased food production

Managing grazing on grasslands in a more efficient way could significantly increase global milk and meat production or free up land for other uses.

Read more