Land use denotes the sum of human activities and arrangements aimed at harnessing services provided by terrestrial ecosystems. Land use is a key element of society–nature interactions and a pervasive driver of global environmental change. One of the central functions of land use is the provision of essential resources to society (e.g. food, feed, fibres, energy, including the provision of clean water and air). The concept “colonization of natural processes” denotes the purposeful intervention into natural processes or ecosystems in order to render them more useful for society. Land use is key for food security. However, land use not only enhances the provision of ecosystem services, it also affects natural process and alters ecological functioning. Because terrestrial ecosystems are major components of the global climate system, and provide habitats and gene reserves for plants, animals, and micro-organism, land use is directly and indirectly linked to many sustainability challenges, including biodiversity loss and climate change, including their trade-offs as well as synergies.
Research in the thematic area is aimed at improving our understanding of highly dynamic processes of society-nature interaction that shape patterns, dynamics and sustainability challenges of land systems. Our research is based on a systemic perspective on land systems. It relies on highly innovative data synthesis methods that systematically combine data from socioeconomic statistics with remote sensing data and model results. We analyse the linkages between resource use (land, materials, energy, time, etc.), landscape change, and the impact of land use on patterns and processes in ecosystems (e.g., energetics, biodiversity), from the local to the global level and across temporal scales. Phenomena to be studied include e.g. the forest transition, impacts of land use on biogeochemical cycles, land use intensification and extensification, production-consumption interlinkages, food security, and global teleconnections. We employ and further develop indicator frameworks for human use of land resources, such as the ‘Human Appropriation of Net Primary Production’, and other indicators that allow studying opportunities and challenges of colonization strategies, including aspects such as (land-use) intensity and efficiency. The consistent integration of land use data with other socio-economic variables, e.g. information on time use, energy use, or food demand, enables to link changes in ecosystem processes to socio-economic dynamics, and to identify leverage points for more sustainable land use.
Research in this thematic area is carried out in close collaboration with the Global Land Programme (https://glp.earth/), and with other national and international cooperation partners.
Keywords: research methods, waste disposal, resource use, headline indicators, local systems
Project Leader: Dr. Simron Jit Singh
Duration: 01.03.2011 – 28.02.2015
Contracting Entity: Europäische Union
Keywords: land use, mitigation of climate change, forestry
Project Leader: Ao.Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Helmut Haberl
Duration: 01.12.2010 – 30.06.2014
Contracting Entity: Bundesministerium für Wissenschaft und Forschung (BMWF) , Bundesministerium für Land- und Forstwirtschaft, Umwelt und Wasserwirtschaft (BMLFUW) , Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (ÖAW) , Forschungsrat der Alpen-Adria Universität Klagenfurt