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 : 2016-04-01 - 2016-11-30

Using insights and results of previous studies as a starting point, WWF Austria and the Instiute of Social Ecology Vienna present their findings of a spatially explicit wilderness assessment for Austria by publishing a “Book of wilderness”. They identified 39 areas bigger than 1000 hectares, showing a high wilderness quality. The study was based on the wilderness continuum concept, which assigns each locality a quantitative wilderness quality index. The book offers theoretical and practical aspects of wilderness, especially in the context of human influenced landscapes predominating Central-Europe. Moreover each of the 39 “wilderness areas” is introduced and its special characteristics discussed.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2016-10-03 - 2018-02-28

Within material flow accounting, research activities are currently focussing on the calculation of raw material equivalents (i.e. upstream material requirements) of imports and exports. This lead to a methods development and publication of empirical data on raw material consumption or material footprints in recent years. Most calculations are based on monetary input-output models. For Austria, the Institute of Social Ecology developed a hybrid LCA-IO Model for the years 1995, 1997, 1999-2012.In several project methods development and the analysis of Austrian results was pushed forward. This included a methods comparison (hybrid LCA-IO models with MRIO models), a decomposition analysis, and a series of conceptual work on the challenges in calculating physical indicators with monetary IO tables.In the project ÖRME 7, the institute finally developed a simple calculation tool for Austria, which will now be further developed in the project ÖRME 8 and extended to the year 2013.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2018-05-01 - 2021-04-30

As cities across the globe confront rapid change, they face common metabolic challenges to provide food, water and energy (FWE) supplies and to ensure healthy, socially balanced and economically productive communities. In this context, governments, utilities, developers, investors and other decision-makers need tools to identify, quantify and visualize cross-sectoral and cross-media impacts to FWE systems from various decisions – from urban development strategies to CO2 mitigation/-adaptation plans to FWE infrastructure investments. The proposed IN-SOURCE project will develop a shared urban data and modeling framework to help cities analyze and characterize FWE systems and nexus interrelationships. Shaped by urban stakeholder requirements, this framework will utilize a common urban 3D data model applicable to regions and cities in Europe and the United States.