ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung in Frankfurt am Main https://www.isoe.de/ Akutelle Informationen vom ISOE. https://www.isoe.de/fileadmin/Resources/Corporate/Public/icons/favicon-32x32.png ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung in Frankfurt am Main https://www.isoe.de/ 32 32 en-gb ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung in Frankfurt am Main Fri, 27 May 2022 21:26:32 +0200 Fri, 27 May 2022 21:26:32 +0200 ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung in Frankfurt am Main news-552 Thu, 19 May 2022 16:34:00 +0200 Water reuse in agriculture - HypoWave+ research project at IFAT 2022 https://www.isoe.de/news/forschungsprojekt-hypowave-auf-der-ifat-2022/ The process of agricultural food production with recycled water, successfully developed in the HypoWave research project, is entering large-scale application for the first time. On a small scale, the model for hydroponic vegetable production with recycled irrigation water will be on display at IFAT in Munich. The HypoWave+ research team will be presenting the project from 30 May to 3 June 2022 in Hall B2 at the stand of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Agricultural vegetable production is water-intensive. But now, water scarcity has become a global problem that is being exacerbated by advancing climate change. In order to ensure the highest possible yields, new, water-saving cultivation methods are being sought. With the HypoWave+ research project led by the Technical University of Braunschweig, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the implementation of an alternative form of agricultural cultivation in combination with water reuse on an industrial scale. The HypoWave process enables regional, water-conserving and year-round vegetable cultivation in greenhouses and thus offers an alternative to conventional vegetable production. 

Regional food production despite water scarcity

The hydroponic process, in which plants in containers without soil are supplied via a nutrient solution using recycled water, was successfully tested in the predecessor project in Hattorf, Lower Saxony. The research team led by project manager Thomas Dockhorn from the Technical University of Braunschweig and project coordinator Martina Winker from the ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research is now presenting the process at the IFAT in Munich. At the BMBF stand, the scientists will be presenting the innovation on a model scale: with the HypoWave method, an alternative to irrigation with drinking water and groundwater can be developed. The cultivation method also offers an optimised nutrient supply, as vital nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are supplied to the plants from the treated water. 

The HypoWave process at IFAT 2022

Visit the HypoWave+ research team at IFAT from 30 May to 3 June 2022 in Hall B2 at the joint stand together with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Scientists from TU Braunschweig, ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, Fraunhofer IGB as well as representatives of the practice partners Integar and Huber SE will be happy to provide you with information about water reuse in hydroponic cultivation and the technical and non-technical requirements for implementing the process. 

The HypoWave+ research project

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the project “HypoWave+ Implementation of a Hydroponic System as a Sustainable Innovation for Resource-Efficient Agricultural Water Reuse” within the funding measure “Water Technologies: Water Reuse” as part of the federal research program on water “Wasser: N”. Wasser: N contributes to the BMBF “Research for Sustainability” (FONA) Strategy. The funding amount comes to 2.8 million euros. The research network led by the Technical University Carolo-Wilhelmina zu Braunschweig, Institute for Urban Water Management (ISWW) includes the following project partners: ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB, University of Hohenheim (UHOH), Wasserverband Braunschweig (AVB), Wasserverband Gifhorn (WVGF), IseBauern GmbH & Co. KG, aquatune GmbH (a Xylem brand), Ankermann GmbH & Co. KG, Huber SE, and INTEGAR – Institut für Technologien im Gartenbau GmbH.

For more information on the research project please go to: www.hypowave.de  

Visuals for your use are provided under www.flickr.com/photos/102295333@N04/albums/72157688518183561 

Scientific contact:

Dr.-Ing. Martina Winker 
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-53
 
www.isoe.de  

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51
 
www.isoe.de  
 

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news-532 Wed, 04 May 2022 13:10:00 +0200 ISOE research project for ocean protection - “SCIP plastics”: Reducing plastic waste in Bangladesh https://www.isoe.de/news/scip-plastics-kunststoffabfaelle-in-bangladesch-reduzieren/ Every day, around 480 tons of waste end up on the streets of Khulna, the largest city in the densely populated Ganges Delta. This includes vast quantities of plastic that is washed into the oceans via Bangladesh’s neighboring waters. Without countermeasures, marine pollution will continue to increase. The aim of the SCIP plastics joint project is therefore to establish a sustainable waste system in Khulna in order to reduce plastic waste in the long term and protect the aquatic habitat. The project that is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) with around four million euros will be implemented by Bauhaus University Weimar in cooperation with ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research until 2024.  Bags, PET bottles, sanitary products – around three quarters of the waste that ends up in the sea consists of plastic and it can take thousands of years for it to completely decompose. Until then, the plastic degrades into ever smaller particles. Much of the waste is washed from land into the oceans via rivers. One of the countries with the highest levels of marine plastic pollution is Bangladesh. And here is the problem: Cities like Khulna lack a central point of contact to organize and coordinate waste management. There are no technical facilities for separating and recycling, so most of the waste ends up unsorted and untreated on the side of the road and in open landfills. The waste lying around can not only cause diseases, but can also endanger ecosystems in the adjacent water bodies. The aim of the research project “Sustainable Capacity Building to Reduce Irreversible Pollution by Plastics” (SCIP plastics for short) is therefore to reorganize waste management in Bangladesh to prevent plastic waste from entering the environment in the first place.

Networking and education in the SCIP hub

At the heart of the project is the so-called “SCIP Hub”, a knowledge transfer center that is being set up on the campus of Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (KUET). In the hub, interdisciplinary actors from business, science, politics, and society will be interconnected to develop a master plan for the reorganization of waste management in Khulna and to implement various pilot measures in the field of plastics prevention. One of the plans is to set up an awareness center in the downtown area of Khulna to sensitize the population to the collection, separation and disposal of waste and to create awareness that waste can also be used as a resource.

Learning from pilot projects

The project will first of all be based on an examination of the existing chain of recyclable materials from a socio-economic point of view. Four pilot facilities will be used to optimize the collection of recyclable plastics and test new strategies for low-emission disposal in landfills. The recycling stores that have so far been organized rather informally, are also to be integrated into the concept and improved according to ecological standards. Furthermore, the extent to which plastics can be replaced in the long term by locally produced jute will be examined. In addition, a case study in the port of Mongla will analyze the extent to which the threat of plastic pollution in Bangladeshi ports can be contained. The findings will be evaluated in the hub and implemented locally in cooperation with the Khulna City Corporation. The long-term goal is to develop a national waste strategy that will help prevent plastic waste.

Scientific contact:

Dr. Martin Zimmermann
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-44

www.isoe.de  

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51
 
www.isoe.de 

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news-538 Tue, 05 Apr 2022 14:51:00 +0200 Energy transition - Heat pumps as a contribution to energy independence and climate protection: how their implementation can succeed https://www.isoe.de/news/waermepumpen-als-beitrag-zu-energieunabhaengigkeit-und-klimaschutz-wie-die-umsetzung-gelingt/ In order to achieve its climate goals and move towards more energy independence, the German government is planning a 100-billion-euro support package. In that context, the CO2 reduction targets for existing buildings are coming into focus. There is great potential in the provision of space heating and hot water supply alone: Energy-efficient heat pumps can support the shift from fossil fuels and contribute to more energy independence. For this to happen, however, the number of heat pumps must increase dramatically – from currently one million to approximately four to six million by 2030. Energy experts from the ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research have investigated what hinders the wide-scale deployment of this technology and how barriers can be overcome. Heat pumps play a central role in the ecological conversion of the building sector as planned by the German government. In the long term, they can replace conventional CO2-intensive oil and gas heating systems. They do this by using ambient heat from different sources such as soil, groundwater and air for heating and they can be operated with renewably generated electricity. “In order to meet the Paris climate targets, the potential for greenhouse gas reductions in buildings that can be achieved by switching  to heat pumps should be exploited as quickly as possible”, says ISOE energy expert Immanuel Stieß. “There is a great need to catch up, especially in apartment buildings. Here, heat pumps are still hardly in use.”

Particularly as part of so-called trigeneration systems, which combine heating, cooling and electricity generation, heat pumps can significantly lower the ecological footprint and at the same time reduce electricity and heating costs. In the European research network "TRI-HP – Trigeneration systems based on multiple renewable sources”, in which Immanuel Stieß and his team were involved, such systems were investigated. “A large part of the electricity needed to operate trigeneration heat pumps can be generated on site by photovoltaics”, says Stieß. “The use of solar energy from one’s own roof makes the operation of these heat pumps particularly energy-efficient, self-sufficient and more cost-effective than fossil-fuelled heating systems.”

Technology for next-generation heat pumps

Another advantage of these innovative heat pump systems is that they do not use synthetic refrigerants, which have a very high global warming potential. Instead, they use natural refrigerants such as propane or CO2, which makes their operation very environmentally and climate-friendly. “In this combination, trigeneration systems represent the technology for next-generation heat pumps, a key technology on the path to greater sustainability and more independence from fossil fuels”, says Stieß.

However, the ISOE researcher also knows that technology alone is not enough to protect the climate. Technical innovations must also be known to and accepted by users and decision-makers. In four European countries, including Germany, Stieß and his colleagues investigated in a multi-stage dialog process with various stakeholders the non-technical barriers and drivers of heat pumps. Together with investors, architects, property owners and installers they explored which economic, organisational and communicative requirements and needs have to be taken into account for this technology to be implemented successfully.

Energy-efficient solutions in the heating sector are ecologically and socially necessary

“The stakeholder dialogues have shown that the greatest challenge for the installation of heat pump systems lies in existing buildings”, says Immanuel Stieß. “The reason for this is that the switch to a heat pump, like any refurbishment to improve energy efficiency in existing buildings and flats, must be planned well. This involves initial investment costs that are later compensated for by lower operating costs.” For new buildings, however, the energy expert sees a good window of opportunity to establish the energy-efficient systems. According to current plans by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection, every newly installed heating system must be operated on the basis of at least 65 percent renewable energies from 2025.

Moving away from fossil fuels for heating as quickly as possible, however, is crucial not only in terms of climate targets, but also from a societal perspective. “Especially households in rented flats have to spend an even larger share of their income on energy costs due to the currently enormously rising prices for fossil fuels. This contributes significantly to the burden on low and middle income groups.”

Understanding the overall system: Training campaign for trade associations and manufacturers

In order for the heat transition to make progress, the ecological importance of heat pumps for reducing greenhouse gas emissions must first be made known to the public. But there is also a need for action at the planning level. The stakeholders surveyed in Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Norway mentioned the higher effort required for successful planning and installation of innovative heat pumps as well as the associated high investment and upfront costs as a major obstacle. “There is a lack of blueprints for simplified planning that could make it easier for heating installers, planners and architects to adapt the size and performance of a system to the requirements of buildings and end-users. In addition, some of the key stakeholders still lack the expertise to deal with the complex systems,” says Stieß.

Generally, the training and further education of heating installers is of particular importance. A training campaign is necessary so that innovative heat pump systems can be routinely planned, installed, commissioned and maintained in residential buildings. The critical shortage of skilled workers, however, makes training and further education measures even more difficult and is perceived as a major hurdle by the stakeholders interviewed.

Developing standardised solutions for better market acceptance

To improve market acceptance, the ISOE researchers recommend that heat pumps become more standardised and easier to install. Compact, space-saving systems or modules that are ready-made and can be easily combined with components from other manufacturers can increase the practicability and feasibility for both new and existing buildings. According to stakeholders and end-users, the equipment must be easy to install and operate. This is why combined packages, such as a heat pump with photovoltaics, intelligent control and thermal storage, are highly valued by investors and architects alike.

For buyers interested in heat pump systems, a clear application process to obtain funding is also considered important. In addition, there is a need for new financing and business models, such as heat contracting, to improve the market dissemination of innovative heat pump systems.

For more information about the project, please go to https://www.tri-hp.eu/

Latest publication of the ISOE report:
Friedrich, Thomas/Immanuel Stieß (2021): Enhancing stakeholders' acceptance of trigeneration heating and cooling systems: Recommendations from the TRI-HP stakeholder process. Brussels: European Commission. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5500482 

Scientific contact:

Dr. Immanuel Stieß
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-19

www.isoe.de

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51
neugart(at)isoe.de
www.isoe.de

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news-529 Thu, 10 Mar 2022 22:56:00 +0100 UN World Water Day 2022 - Groundwater – an invisible resource and (non-)visible problems https://www.isoe.de/news/grundwasser-unsichtbare-ressource-und-un-sichtbare-probleme/ The United Nations has declared ‘Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible’ its theme for World Water Day on 22 March 2022. This is because policies and decision-makers have paid little attention to the global groundwater problem thus far. In many places, this precious resource is contaminated, and withdrawal from aquifers exceeds what can be replenished. The regulate research group led by ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, is examining ways to better protect the ‘invisible’ resource. Groundwater is fundamental to the global population. It is the main source for drinking water and food production. And yet, in many parts of the world, the underground reservoirs have been overexploited to such a degree that the groundwater level is falling drastically – above all in regions with intensive agricultural irrigation. “Groundwater bodies have been unable to recover well. The insufficient replenishment of groundwater is a problem that climate change will exacerbate even further”, says Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky, who heads the regulate research group at ISOE. “We can only counteract this with sustainable management of groundwater resources.”

Need for a paradigm shift in the research and management of groundwater 

However, sustainable groundwater management is more than extracting less water locally. Water researcher Frick-Trzebitzky highlights the complexity of the issue. “The alarm bells should start ringing if, despite the international Water Framework Directive designed to safeguard the quality and quantity of groundwater bodies for the European Union, we see that many such bodies are in a poor state in terms of quantitative and chemical status.” The regulate research group recommends a paradigm shift in groundwater research to allow development of new, sustainable management strategies. “So far, the focus has been very much on local groundwater reserves and in-situ solutions that are, unfortunately, often doomed to fail”, says Frick-Trzebitzky. “We researchers must concentrate far more on the processes behind what is visibly occurring at the local level. In other words, we need to redirect our gaze to the supraregional impacts on groundwater, so-called telecoupling.” 

Telecoupling: groundwater problems arise not only regionally

Delving deeper into the causes of local or regional groundwater problems, we find that the pressure on aquifers originates not only in local abstraction in the so-called hotspot regions of Europe. “Supraregional long-distance effects contribute significantly to the over-use and contamination of groundwater, and vegetable growing in the southern regions of Europe is a good example”, says Robert Luetkemeier, who heads the research group together with Frick-Trzebitzky. While the water is withdrawn and polluted from pesticide and nutrient inputs locally, the vegetables are predominantly destined for and consumed in distant regions. “To understand and solve the groundwater problem in southern Spain, you have to think about it from the other end”. By ‘other end’ we mean exports, including to German supermarkets. The groundwater problem may well occur at local level, but it is caused supraregionally”, says the ISOE researcher. 

Catchment areas are too narrow a perspective 

In an article published in the journal ‘Water’, the research group has shown possible scientific and economic starting points for the paradigm shift: to date, we manage groundwater bodies as parts of river catchments, which form regional management units in terms of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). “The conventional perspective on catchment areas fails to address the complex interactions affecting groundwater resources”, says Robert Luetkemeier, and gives some examples. “For one thing, interbasin water transfers cross the hydrological boundaries of a management unit. And then there are external influences on the regional sources.” These include aspects such as seasonal peaks in water demand caused by visiting tourists, or the so-called virtual water used for the regional cultivation of vegetables for export.

Sustainable groundwater management: making what is hidden visible

The real impacts on groundwater (including remote influences that often come with a time delay) are key to establishing a sustainable form of management. Understanding them requires research, business and politics to also look at the supposedly ‘invisible’ relationships. “Groundwater frequently becomes ‘visible’ only when a crisis looms, for instance via a rising number of applications for well drilling, the first signs of drought damage in forests, or the drying up of extraction wells belonging to water suppliers”, cautions water researcher Luetkemeier. Continuous monitoring of groundwater bodies is therefore vital. In concrete terms, the EU Groundwater Directive should in future also include criteria for evaluating the ecological state of groundwater bodies. One area that Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky, Robert Luetkemeier and their ‘regulate’ team are working on is the form that such criteria might take.

To the publication in the journal “Water”:

Lütkemeier, Robert/Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky/Dženeta Hodžic/Anna Jäger/David Kuhn/Linda Söller (2021): Telecoupled Groundwaters: New Ways to Investigate Increasingly De-Localized Resources. Water 13 (20), 2906

About the research group regulate 

The junior research group “regulate – regulation of groundwater in telecoupled social-ecological systems” is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the program “Research for Sustainable Development (FONA)”. The regulate project is part of the funding measure “SOEF – Social-ecological Research” in the funding area “Junior Research Groups in Social-Ecological Research”.

For more information on the project, see www.regulate-project.eu  

The ‘Regulate’ research group on Twitter: @regulateproject 

Scientific contact:

Dr. Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-55
 
www.isoe.de  

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51
 
www.isoe.de 

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news-526 Thu, 24 Feb 2022 08:00:00 +0100 Study on risk perception - Risks from microplastics – public perception not in line with scientific studies  https://www.isoe.de/news/risiken-durch-mikroplastik-gesellschaftliche-wahrnehmung-deckt-sich-nicht-mit-wissenschaftlichen-s/ Microplastics and the possible risks for the environment are highly debated. However, whereas scientists still see many open questions and have yet to complete their risk assessment, the general public ranks the environmental and health risks posed by microplastics as relatively high. Researchers coordinated by ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research have investigated the factors that influence individual risk perception. The results of their representative survey in Germany have now been published in the journal Global Environmental Change.  The representative survey conducted by scientists led by ISOE researchers Johanna Kramm and Carolin Völker showed that a majority of the German public had heard of microplastics and were very concerned about the associated risks. Concern about environmental risks slightly outweighed the risks to health in this context. Nonetheless, 93 per cent of respondents believed microplastics to have rather or very negative effects on human health. “The study delivers for the first time more profound social scientific results on the factors that influence risk perception related to microplastics in German society”, says human geographer Johanna Kramm, who led the ISOE research group PlastX, together with Carolin Völker. 

The survey among 1027 individuals showed how socio-demographic differences such as gender and age affect risk perception: women and older people over the age of 50 demonstrate a higher risk perception than men and younger people. Two further factors proved to be crucial to an increased risk perception: the more environmentally aware respondents were particular concerned about the effects of microplastics, as did those who were well informed about negative reports in the media. “Respondents who were familiar with media reports depicting environmental concentrations of microplastics as a cause for concern were more likely to have a higher risk perception than those unfamiliar with these reports”, says Kramm.

General public concerned about the growing concentration of microplastics in the environment

The study, which, in addition to ISOE, also involved Utrecht University, revealed that risk perception among the population is generally higher than currently supported by scientific findings. "Scientific studies on the concentration of microplastics in the natural environment have found widespread distribution of the plastic particles in all ecosystems“, says the ecotoxicologist Carolin Völker. Microplastics have been detected not only in marine, aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems but also in dust in the air. “Scientific evaluations of the environmental risk have shown that – to date at least – the environmental concentration of the particles is too low to pose a risk to aquatic organisms”, says Völker. “The long-term consequences of this exposure are, however, still unclear.”

Scientists are therefore currently discussing whether political measures, such as the ban on so-called microbeads from cosmetics and cleaning agents in the USA and Great Britain are justified by scientific findings or rather triggered by high public concerns driven largely by emotive media coverage. A comparative analysis of popular online newspapers and scientific papers conducted by the two researchers Völker and Kramm in 2019 showed that most of the media reports on microplastics emphasise the harmful effects and present the material as highly toxic. 

Everyday products made of plastic: mix of harmful and unidentified substances

Kramm points out that “bans and policies on microplastics should not be limited to banning microplastics in certain products but should also look at other sources”. After all, the largest share of microplastics results from the decomposition of larger plastic waste discharged into the environment. In addition, laboratory studies carried out by the PlastX research group in 2019 show that everyday plastic products contain a mix of harmful and unidentified substances, which tend to migrate and can then be ingested by consumers.

“The increasing input of plastic particles into the environment and the mix of chemicals in plastic products really do provide good reasons to act”, says Völker. This view is shared by the European Chemicals Agency, which considers microplastics an incalculable risk, the consequences of which may not yet be visible, but which could lead to irreversible damage several decades from now due to accumulation of the material in the environment.

To the study: 

Kramm, Johanna/Stefanie Steinhoff/Simon Werschmöller/BeateVölker/CarolinVölker (2022): Explaining risk perception of microplastics: Results from a representative survey in Germany. Global Environmental Change 73, 102485

Further publications: 

Völker, Carolin/Johanna Kramm/Martin Wagner (2019): On the Creation of Risk: Framing of Microplastics in Science and Media. Global Challenges (1900010)

Zimmermann, Lisa/Georg Dierkes/Thomas A. Ternes/Carolin Völker/Martin Wagner (2019): Benchmarking the in Vitro Toxicity and Chemical Composition of Plastic Consumer Products. Environmental Science and Technology 53 (19), 11467-11477

About the authors / about the PlastX research group

The study evolved from research carried out by the junior research group “PlastX – Plastics as a systemic risk for social-ecological supply systems”, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of its “Research for Sustainable Development (FONA)” programme: It was part of the funding measure “SÖF – Social-Ecological Research” from 2016 to 2021, in the funding area “Junior Research Groups in Social-Ecological Research”. Led by Dr. Johanna Kramm and Dr. Carolin Völker, six researchers in this group examined the problem of plastics from a social-ecological perspective. The research partners were ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research (leadership), the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI), Department of Physical Chemistry of Polymers, and Goethe University Frankfurt, Department of Aquatic Ecotoxicology. 

Download:

Press photo Microplastics (jpg, 1.8 MB)

When using the press photo, please indicate the source: © Carolin Völker/ISOE
Caption: Microplastics and larger fragments recorded at Famara beach in Lanzarote, Spain. 

Scientific contact:

Dr. Carolin Völker
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-59

www.isoe.de

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51

www.isoe.de

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news-518 Tue, 15 Feb 2022 17:56:00 +0100 Biodiversity research - The example of the Main metropolis: How cities can contribute to the preservation of insect diversity https://www.isoe.de/news/beispiel-mainmetropole-wie-staedte-zum-erhalt-der-insektenvielfalt-beitragen-koennen/ While insect extinction is progressing in forests, fields and nature reserves, cities are increasingly providing suitable habitats for insects. Therefore, urban society is  called upon to preserve their diversity as its behaviour has an influence on the biodiversity of dragonflies, bumblebees and related species. Using the example of the Main metropolis, Frankfurt’s research and practice partners, led by ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, are for the first time investigating the relation between urban lifestyles, everyday practices and insect diversity. The SLInBio research project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Urbanisation – among many other drivers – is responsible for the global loss of biodiversity. And yet cities also hold great potential for preserving biodiversity. Insects can find a variety of suitable habitats and foraging opportunities in gardens, parks, green strips and balconies. In view of the different needs that citizens associate with urban green spaces, the question arises as to how the so-called valorisation of biodiversity can succeed. In other words, how can an enhanced perception of the value of nature be promoted, leading to conscious, environmentally and insect-friendly actions in everyday life? 

To answer this question, Frankfurt institutions with proven biodiversity expertise have joined forces in a research network. Under the lead of ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, the Senckenberg Research Institute and Nature Museum Frankfurt, Goethe University Frankfurt and NABU Frankfurt, in cooperation with the city’s Palmengarten as well as BioFrankfurt, the Parks Department and the City of Frankfurt's Environment Department, are investigating new concepts to contribute to the preservation of insect diversity together with the city's population. 

Understanding the social dimension of biodiversity

Until 2024, the research network will deal with different areas of urban life within the project “SLInBio: Urban lifestyles and the valorisation of biodiversity: dragonflies, grasshoppers, bumblebees & co”. The aim is to gain a better understanding of how, for example, the use of parks and green spaces is related to insect diversity in the city. What role does green recreation play, for instance? Do the way citizens spend their leisure time, their diet, their choice of transport or their type of housing have an influence on the occurrence of insects in the city? To what extent does their lifestyle influence their actions with regard to effective insect protection? 

“A special aspect of our project is certainly that for the first time we are thinking about and investigating biodiversity from the perspective of society,” says SLInBio project coordinator Marion Mehring, head of the research unit Biodiversity and People at ISOE. “To this end, we are combining social-empirical methods with insect monitoring and ecotoxicological studies and we are also testing participatory formats that open up new experimental spaces for the urban population with regard to biodiversity and insect protection,” says the geo-ecologist.

From knowledge to action: New formats for environmental education

Why are the experiences and attitudes of the urban population so important for the research project? “We know that not everybody likes insects, and not all insect species are equally popular,” says Mehring, “but cities can only be habitats for different insect species if citizens recognise and value their importance for urban ecosystems.” Mehring emphasises that this does not only require more information about biodiversity, but also personal experiences that can have an activating effect and change attitudes. To generate interest in and motivation for insect conservation, people need to be given concrete opportunities.. “Existing knowledge alone does not usually engender commitment,” says Mehring. 

That is why in the course of the research project new environmental education formats and artistic interventions are offered by the Senckenberg Research Institute and Nature Museum Frankfurt, NABU, ISOE and the Frankfurt Palmengarten. In this project, the Senckenberg Research Institute and Nature Museum Frankfurt is also investigating insect diversity in the relevant green spaces. The Department of Biosciences at Goethe University deals with the influence of pesticides on insect diversity in the urban experimental areas while ISOE addresses questions of lifestyles and perception as well as attitudes in the population towards insects and develops discourse and participation formats for the urban population. ISOE is also responsible for the transdisciplinary cooperation and evaluation of the project. The Citizen Science Community in Frankfurt that was already established in the preliminary phase will also play a major role in the research project. 

About the project

The project “SLInBio – Urban lifestyles and the valorisation of biodiversity: dragonflies, grasshoppers, bumblebees and co.” is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the funding measure “BiodiWert – Valuing and safeguarding biodiversity in politics, business and society” as part of the BMBF’s Research Initiative for Biodiversity Conservation (FEdA).

Project and cooperation partners

  • ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research (project lead)
  • Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum, Frankfurt am Main
  • Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main
  • NABU Frankfurt am Main
  • Palmengarten der Stadt Frankfurt am Main
  • BioFrankfurt – Das Netzwerk für Biodiversität e.V.
  • Grünflächenamt, Frankfurt am Main
  • Umweltamt Frankfurt am Main

Scientific contact:

Dr. Marion Mehring
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-39
 
www.isoe.de  

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51

www.isoe.de 

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news-513 Thu, 03 Feb 2022 13:59:28 +0100 tdAcademy - The integrative perspective in transdisciplinary research  https://www.isoe.de/news/die-integrative-perspektive-in-der-transdisziplinaeren-forschung/ Transdisciplinary research is all about initiating joint learning processes in science and society to tackle societal challenges, something which is particularly beneficial to sustainability research. However, the approach is complex, both in terms of the methodology and design and the communication between those involved in the research process. A recent article on the ISOE blog ‘Social Ecology’ highlights the key aspects of transdisciplinary research and provides insights into appropriate integrative perspectives.  The idea of academic and non-academic stakeholders collaborating to come up with joint solutions to societal problems is not entirely new. Social-ecological sustainability research, developed in essence by ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, rises to key challenges such as resource scarcity, climate change or loss of biodiversity, and extensive experience has already been gained with the approach. Its most important aspects are ‘context dependencies”, ‘innovative formats and methods, ‘societal impacts’ and ‘scientific effects’. These four points need to be viewed in interaction with each other, as they affect the research design and choice of formats and methods, and also the evaluation and interpretation of the results.

However, transdisciplinary (TD) research has so far lacked an appropriate integrative perspective linking together these four key aspects to generate synergies for research processes. In their recent article on the ISOE blog, David P. M. Lam and Josefa Kny – both of whom are staff members of the tdAcademy – address this gap. They join with other authors to make relevant proposals in an English-language scientific publication ‘Transdisciplinary research: towards an integrative perspective’. This paper appeared in the GAIA journal and is the first joint publication from the tdAcademy project – a research and community platform for transdisciplinary research and research about transdisciplinarity, co-founded by ISOE. 

Integrative approaches to promote transdisciplinary research

In their blog article, Lam and Kny briefly outline three proposals for possible integrative perspectives, innovative formats and methods, societal impacts, and scientific effects: (1) exploring and strengthening connections and synergies; (2) enhancing the quality criteria as a cross-cutting element; and (3) building capacity and providing guidance for scientists and practitioners. The fact that both scientists and practicians are often overwhelmed by the complexity and diversity of theoretical approaches and formats in everyday research illustrates the crucial need for capacity building. Thus, the latter is of the utmost importance in coping with this complexity and broadening general appreciation of the need for an integrative perspective on the four central aspects of TD research.

The blog article and the publication are intended to stimulate transdisciplinary research and the debate on integrative perspectives within the TD science community. After all, it is only with the help of such perspectives that the transformative potential of the transdisciplinary mode of research can be fully tapped. The online platform of the tdAcademy is keen to support the exchange of knowledge in this respect. www.td-academy.org/ 

To the blog article

Lam, David P.M./Josefa Kny (2022): Transdisciplinary research: how are context dependencies, innovative formats and methods, societal effects, and scientific effects connected? ISOE Blog Soziale Ökologie. Krise - Kritik - Gestaltung

To the publication

Lam, David P.M./Maria E. Freund/Josefa Kny/Oskar Marg/Melanie Mbah/Lena Theiler/Matthias Bergmann/Bettina Brohmann/Daniel J. Lang/Martina Schäfer (2021): Transdisciplinary research: towards an integrative perspective. GAIA 30 (4), 243-249

Scientific contact:

Dr. Oskar Marg
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-26
 
www.isoe.de  

Lena Theiler
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-56
 
www.isoe.de   

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51
 
www.isoe.de  

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news-497 Mon, 15 Nov 2021 10:45:22 +0100 Retrospect of the ISOE symposium on the farewell of Thomas Jahn - Crisis, catastrophe, normality – the responsibility of science for shaping the future https://www.isoe.de/news/krise-katastrophe-normalitaet-die-verantwortung-der-wissenschaft-fuer-die-zukunftsgestaltung-1/ On October 1, 2021, ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research solemnly bid farewell to its co-founder Thomas Jahn as scientific director. In addition to a festive event, a symposium took place under the title “Crisis, Catastrophe, Normality – the Responsibility of Science for Shaping the Future”. The focus was on the following question that was already asked before the Corona pandemic: What role can science play in solving complex crises? This was discussed in Frankfurt’s “Haus am Dom” by representatives of different disciplines and scientific theoretical perspectives. Ignorance is generally regarded as problematic when it comes to finding solutions to complex problems. In his keynote speech at the ISOE symposium, Alexander Bogner of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) explained why, in his view, “the power of knowledge” can also become dangerous. Using the example of the discussion about the climate crisis and corona crises, he made it clear that current crises are predominantly interpreted as crises of conflicting knowledge. This suggests that there are “correct” answers to political issues. 

From a sociological perspective of knowledge, Bogner explained that scientific expertise has a particularly strong impact in this context. As the supposedly only basis for rational politics, scientific knowledge dominates the dispute about different interests and values to such an extent that political decision-making processes can hardly be shaped with an open mind. This poses a dilemma for democracies: If “lack of alternatives” becomes the political credo, a “revolting defiance” arises that virtually provokes the search for “alternative facts,” according to Bogner.

Discussion about the relevance of scientific knowledge 

The following guests at the ISOE symposium talked about this assessment in a subsequent roundtable discussion which was moderated by Stephan Lessenich, director of the Institute for Social Research: Franziska Nori, director of the Frankfurter Kunstverein, Klement Tockner, director general of the Senckenberg Society for Nature Research, Frankfurt am Main, Ines Weller, deputy spokesperson of the artec Sustainability Research Center in Bremen, and ISOE co-founder Thomas Jahn. In the course of the discussion, Ines Weller took a critical look at the perception of and handling with scientific knowledge, which varies greatly depending on the discipline. “What kind of knowledge is relevant and for whom?”, asked Weller, using the example of research on the connection between gender and the environment to illustrate that some expertise in environmental research is perceived as irrelevant and is emblematic of the “powerlessness of knowledge”. 

Klement Tockner emphasized the positive contribution of science in the Corona pandemic. For societies that struggle with uncertainty as well as with complex interrelationships, it was an extremely important experience to be able to watch science in the making. The recourse to results of basic research, the open access to existing data, the questioning of results and the weighing of uncertainties were ultimately a kind of knowledge production in real time, which, in conjunction with quality-driven, independent science journalism, made an important contribution to shaping society.

Responsibility of science and new self-perception

Franziska Nori focused on aspects of knowledge transfer and pointed out the power of images in public discourse. Especially in the pandemic, she argued, it had become apparent that central messages by images had created a kind of “emotionalized knowledge” that made negotiations about social and political necessities more difficult. Nori emphasized the need to make complex knowledge more comprehensible to civil society, to translate technical jargon and thus to open up science as widely as possible to all sections of the population.

Thomas Jahn took up this aspect of openness and emphasized that in this context a different self-perception of science was necessary: Regarding complex crisis situations, it had to be a minimum requirement for every science in democratic societies that it enables the various social groups to express themselves in decision-making processes. The plurality of knowledge that also includes non-scientific knowledge must therefore already be taken into account in the process of knowledge production; this is a claim of transdisciplinary science. “Science is powerful and that entails a responsibility,” Jahn emphasized. It has transformative power and is capable of creating new realities.. A prerequisite, however, is that science always confronts itself in a self-reflexive manner, otherwise it has no raison d'être, he argued.

Official farewell to Thomas Jahn as scientific director of ISOE

The symposium on October 1, 2021, took place on the occasion of the official farewell of Thomas Jahn, who co-founded the research institute in 1989. The sociologist was ISOE's spokesperson for the institute’s executive board and scientific director until March 2021. Jahn has worked at ISOE predominantly on sociatal relations to nature, transdisciplinary methods and concepts, and social-ecological science research. At the festive event following the symposium, Angela Dorn, Hessian Minister of State for Science and the Arts, praised Thomas Jahn for the excellent sense he has shown for the issues of the future since ISOE’s founding. In her video message, the Minister thanked Jahn for his special achievements for sustainability research in Germany, for Hesse as a science location, and for his critical voice of social-ecological research, which would still be needed even after the end of his employment as scientific director of ISOE. 

The two laudators Uwe Schneidewind, scientific director of the Wuppertal Institute for many years, and Stephan Lessenich, chairman of ISOE’s scientific advisory board, also thanked Thomas Jahn for his commitment to social-ecological research and for his extraordinary imprint on the methods and concepts of transdisciplinary research. Finally, ISOE staff, alumni and other companions expressed their gratitude to Thomas Jahn as a valuable mastermind, mentor and colleague with a special film as a gift. Thomas Jahn then thanked, first and foremost, the co-founders Irmgard Schultz, Egon Becker, Thomas Kluge and Engelbert Schramm and the new scientific director Flurina Schneider for the successful “handover” in April this year. Thomas Jahn will continue to support ISOE in an advisory capacity after his official retirement. “I will remain connected to the institute, continue to support it to the extent of my possibilities,” Jahn said at his farewell, “the institute is very close to my heart.”

Scientific contact:

Dr. Nicola Schuldt-Baumgart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-30
 
www.isoe.de  

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51
 
www.isoe.de  
 

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news-493 Tue, 26 Oct 2021 16:46:00 +0200 Risk prevention - Launch of German-Jordanian research project on disaster management during heavy rainfall https://www.isoe.de/news/deutsch-jordanisches-forschungsprojekt-zu-katastrophenschutz-bei-starkregen-gestartet/ Jordan is one of the world's most arid countries and is particularly affected by climate change and extreme weather events. Heavy rain and flash floods repeatedly lead to high property damage and fatalities. A research network led by ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research is pursuing the goal of identifying measures for reducing disaster damage in Jordan that are also suitable for harnessing heavy rainfall in order to improve water supply. The German-Jordanian team of “CapTain Rain” started research work in Amman at the beginning of October. The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Jordan suffers from a lack of water. Eighty percent of the country are a desert, and the few groundwater reserves are not sufficient to supply the population with sufficient drinking water and provide water for agriculture. Climate change is exacerbating the situation, which is partly due to increasingly frequent extreme weather events. Prolonged periods of drought and aridity are more and more followed by heavy rains with destructive flash floods. “If we succeed in better predicting heavy rainfall events in the future, we can improve risk management and minimize flood damage, and also develop targeted solutions for sustainable water harvesting following heavy rainfall events,” says project manager Katja Brinkmann of ISOE. 

In order to develop suitable early warning systems and identify targeted adaptation measures to climate change in Jordan, the researchers are working closely with Jordanian research institutions, authorities and ministries in the transdisciplinary project “Capture and retain heavy rainfalls in Jordan”, or CapTain Rain for short. The first stakeholder workshop and official launch event took place in Amman on October 3, 2021 with more than 50 participants from Jordan and Germany. The project team also reported on the recent flood disaster that took place in Germany in July 2021, and together they discussed what lessons could be learned from this and how they could be transferred to Jordan. As a result, the CapTain Rain team was able to identify knowledge gaps and needs for action in heavy rain risk prevention.

Transdisciplinary approach for better risk preparedness

“To improve forecasts of extreme weather events, it is crucial to understand which are the social-ecological drivers of flash flood events,” says project leader Brinkmann. “We want to find out what promotes flash floods in Jordan and investigate the complex underlying interactions between climate and land use.” To this end, the team is working with a transdisciplinary research approach that also captures the perspective of stakeholders on site, as well as that of the local population and takes their knowledge and risk perceptions into consideration. “This allows us to conduct a holistic analysis of flash flood risk and hazard prevention,” says environmental scientist Brinkmann. 

For this purpose, the research team has already conducted expert interviews. Employees of Jordanian authorities and universities as well as international development cooperation organizations were asked about their practical knowledge in connection with flash flood risks and heavy rainfall prevention and how they assess possible options for action. Methods for the retention, storage and utilization of rainwater, for example, are considered to be promising. Interviews with civil society actors will also be conducted as the project progresses. 

The key to adapting to the consequences of climate change

Merging the scientific results with application-oriented and local findings will then serve as the basis for developing and implementing an adapted risk management system for Jordan. However, the results from CapTain Rain could also be important for other countries affected by heavy rainfall events. “The goal of the research project is to enhance current methods and tools for flash flood prediction and advance the prevention of disaster damage,” says Brinkmann. “This will lead us to optimized climate services and early warning systems that are considered pivotal for adapting to the consequences of climate change worldwide.”

About the CapTain Rain research project

As part of the FONA strategy (Research for Sustainability) and the funding measure “International Partnerships for Sustainable Innovation (CLIENT II) the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the research project “CapTain Rain – Capture and retain heavy rainfall in Jordan” for a period of three years with 1.8 million euros”. ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research is heading the project with the project partners in the research network being Koblenz University of Applied Sciences, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Hamburger Stadtentwässerung AöR, Kisters AG, Institute for Technical and Scientific Hydrology GmbH, the Jordanian Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Water and Irrigation, the National Agricultural Research Center, as well as the Greater Amman Municipality and Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority. 

Website: https://captain-rain.de/home.html  

Download:

Press photo CapTain Rain (jpg, 3.2 MB)

When using the press photo, please indicate the source: © Katja Brinkmann/ISOE

Caption: The ancient Nabataean drainage tunnel (Mudhlim tunnel and remains of the dam) in Petra, World Heritage Site in Jordan (September 2021)

Scientific contact:

Dr. Katja Brinkmann
Phone +49 69 7076919-42
 

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Phone +49 69 7076919-51
 

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news-483 Tue, 19 Oct 2021 12:44:00 +0200 Adaptation to climate change - Large-scale implementation of vegetable production utilizing water reuse https://www.isoe.de/news/grosstechnische-umsetzung-von-gemueseproduktion-mit-wasserwiederverwendung/ From pilot project to large-scale implementation: The process of agricultural food production with water reuse successfully developed in the HypoWave research project is entering large-scale application for the first time. In the course of the follow-up project HypoWave+, the research network has started preparations for hydroponic vegetable production with recycled irrigation water on a one-hectare area. Agricultural production worldwide is increasingly dependent on irrigation. But regional water shortages and the resulting conflicts regarding usage are on the rise. High-yield harvests cannot be taken for granted in Germany either due to prolonged heat and dry soils. New, water-saving cultivation methods are being sought. The HypoWave+ research project led by the Technical University of Braunschweig, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is therefore implementing now an alternative form of agricultural cultivation in combination with water reuse on an industrial scale.

The HypoWave process: An alternative for agriculture

The hydroponic process, in which plants that are in containers without soil are nourished via a nutrient solution using recycled water, had been successfully tested in a previous project in Hattorf, Lower Saxony. “ Now the experience gained with the water-efficient process based on recycled water is to be transferred to large-scale production, and this process is to be accompanied scientifically.,” says project manager Thomas Dockhorn of the Technical University of Braunschweig. The new HypoWave process not only offers an alternative to irrigation with drinking water and groundwater, the cultivation method also optimizes nutrient supply, since vital nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are supplied to the plants through the treated water.

Despite water shortages: regional food production in times of climate change

Together with farmers from Lower Saxony, the scientists are planning to produce up to 700 tons of tomatoes and peppers under glass on one hectare of cultivation area. The vegetables will be sold in regional grocery stores throughout the year, except for a short winter break. “In the course of the scientific monitoring of HypoWave+, we are focusing on questions of quality management and the marketability of the process,” says project coordinator Martina Winker from ISOE - Institute for Social-Ecological Research in Frankfurt. She says it is important not only to develop a viable solution for this location, but also to be able to derive recommendations from it for other locations and farmers. Climate change is visibly advancing. Regional vegetable cultivation that is water-saving and feasible all year-round in greenhouses could therefore become a real option for farmers. “For this, we want to lay the necessary foundations,” says Winker.  

The HypoWave+ research project

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the joint project “HypoWave+ – Implementation of a hydroponic system as a sustainable innovation for resource-efficient agricultural water reuse” as part of the funding measure “Water technologies: Water Reuse” under the federal program “Water: N”. Water: N is part of the BMBF strategy Research for Sustainability (FONA). The funding amounts to 2.8 million EUR. The project is led by the Technische Universität Braunschweig, Institute of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering (ISWW), with the research partners being ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, University of Hohenheim (UHOH), Abwasserverband Braunschweig (AVB), Wasserverband Gifhorn (WVGF), IseBauern GmbH & Co. KG, aquatune GmbH (a Xylem brand), Ankermann GmbH & Co. KG, Huber SE and INTEGAR – Institute for Technologies in Horticulture GmbH.

For more information on the research project please go to: www.hypowave.de

In addition, you will find image material for your use at www.flickr.com/photos/102295333@N04/albums/721576885183561

Scientific contact:

Dr. Martina Winker
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-53
winker(at)isoe.de

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart 
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51
neugart(at)isoe.de

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news-480 Tue, 19 Oct 2021 14:58:00 +0200 Inaugural Lecture of Flurina Schneider at Goethe University Frankfurt - First professorship for social ecology and transdisciplinarity in Germany https://www.isoe.de/news/erste-professur-fuer-soziale-oekologie-und-transdisziplinaritaet-in-deutschland/ In the winter semester of 2021/22, Flurina Schneider, scientific director of ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, will take up her professorship for Social Ecology and Transdisciplinarity at Goethe University Frankfurt. The joint professorship of the independent research institute ISOE and the university is the first with this particular focus in Germany. The inaugural lecture “Research for sustainable development – from knowledge processes and options for action” will take place on October 20, 2021 on the Riedberg campus. Social ecology is still a comparatively young scientific field that has proven central to environmental and sustainability research in recent decades and is now for the first time entering university teaching with a professorship. Social ecology examines the relationships between society and nature and poses the question of how these relationships can be made more sustainable. Particular importance is attached to the role of knowledge processes. “In the search for science-based solutions to challenges such as climate change or biodiversity loss, social ecology, with its transdisciplinary approach, facilitates joint learning processes between science and society. That is why it plays a key role in sustainability research”, says Flurina Schneider, who will give her inaugural lecture at Goethe University Frankfurt on October 20, 2021.

Cooperation between ISOE and Goethe University in research, teaching and transfer

In Germany, social ecology was mainly developed by ISOE, which developed this transdisciplinary field of science in terms of their research program. “I am very pleased to take up the first professorship in this important field of science in Germany at Goethe University Frankfurt,” says ISOE’s scientific director Flurina Schneider. With the joint professorship in Social Ecology and Transdisciplinarity, which was created on the initiative of the independent research institute in Frankfurt and which is part of the Faculty of Biological Sciences, ISOE is intensifying its long-standing cooperation with Goethe University in research, teaching and transfer. Since 2008, ISOE’s scientists have been teaching theoretical concepts, methods, and empirical applications of social-ecological research as part of the environmental master's program at Goethe University. 

Anchoring the educational mandate for sustainable development in academic teaching

With the professorship, ISOE and Goethe University are also responding to the growing demand in the field of sustainability research and related research methods. “As a university, we take the mandate to anchor education for sustainable development in our courses of study very seriously,” says Enrico Schleiff, president of Goethe University Frankfurt. “We are therefore extremely pleased to have Flurina Schneider, an internationally renowned expert in Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research, as a professor for this chair, which is unique in Germany. Her expertise in scientific principles and methods with respect to socio-ecological transformation processes and sustainable development is not only a great asset for our range of courses, but also for the university as a whole: sustainability as the preservation of natural life-support systems and climate protection is a matter close to our hearts in research, teaching and administration.”

A professor with wide-ranging expertise in environmental and sustainability research 

The Swiss sustainability researcher Flurina Schneider has been scientific director of ISOE since April 1, 2021. She is the successor of Thomas Jahn, who co-founded ISOE in 1989. Schneider completed her habilitation in 2016 on the topic of transdisciplinary and transformative research for sustainable governance of natural resources with a view to intra- and intergenerational justice at the University of Bern, where she had been employed as a researcher and head of the Land Resources Research Cluster since 2010. Her scientific activities span broad areas of environmental and sustainability research: from soil-conserving farming systems and quality assurance of eco-products to equity in land and water governance and research projects explicitly addressing the role of transdisciplinary knowledge production in sustainability transformations.

The importance of knowledge in sustainability processes

The role of knowledge in sustainability transformations is Flurina Schneider's key research and teaching priority. She will address this topic also in her inaugural lecture. “It is crucial to understand the mechanisms by which scientific knowledge translates into societal action and what types of knowledges are needed for social-ecological transformations to actually succeed,” says Schneider. She will also focus on issues of environmental justice between the generations, as well as between countries in the global North and South. “I’m really looking forward to giving students access to all the complex issues and challenges of sustainability research.”

Inaugural lecture of Prof. Dr. Flurina Schneider 
“Research for sustainable development – from knowledge processes and options for action”

Date: October 20, 2021 
Time: start at 1 pm 
Location: Lecture Hall 2 of the Otto Stern Center on the Riedberg Campus of Goethe University Frankfurt.

Scientific contact:

Prof. Dr. Flurina Schneider
Tel. +49 69 7076919-0
 

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 7076919-51
 

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news-475 Tue, 21 Sep 2021 14:49:34 +0200 Sustainable Development Goals - Models for measuring sustainability do not sufficiently depict societal well-being https://www.isoe.de/news/modelle-zur-messung-von-nachhaltigkeit-bilden-gesellschaftliches-wohlergehen-nur-unvollstaendig-ab/ Heat waves, floods and storms – recent extreme weather events have highlighted what the IPCC’s current 6th Assessment Report describes scientifically: The Earth system is in turmoil, its planetary boundaries have been reached. Not only the climate is affected, but also biodiversity, freshwater and land systems. As a result, humanitarian catastrophes are becoming more frequent. How can we make sure that the boundaries of the Earth system are respected while at the same time increasing societal well-being? The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations are a promising contribution to this end. The question is, however, how can the success of this complex objective be measured ISOE researchers have examined two scientific models that might serve this purpose. In a recent study published in the journal “Ecological Indicators”, ISOE researchers Heide Kerber, Lukas Drees and Robert Lütkemeier compare two prominent approaches that assess the relationship between societal well-being and Earth system boundaries. Both approaches follow the Earth system science concept of planetary boundaries and combine it with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the SDGs. They are on the one hand the approach “Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries” (short: “Doughnut”) and on the other hand the project #SDGinPB. The ISOE authors assess the ability of these approaches to map the complexity of the SDGs and discuss general challenges of scientific models when dealing with global social developments.

The authors point out the striking fact that both approaches work with only one or two indicators per SDG, while the United Nations use six to 27 indicators to show the development in achieving the goals. While this would serve the need to reduce the complexity of the real world, as in any model there would also be a risk of overlooking key aspects. “For example, if labor market growth is the only indicator for SDG 8 'Decent work and economic growth' and important aspects such as child labor or basic labor rights are not taken into account, then the model produces a very distorted picture,” explains co-author Lukas Drees. “Calculations of the #SDGinPB approach that accordingly see China, for example, on target for SDG 8 should raise skepticism.”

Models support growth paradigm

Overall, the ISOE study shows how strongly the choice of indicators influences the assessment of SDG achievements, and that assessments based on a single indicator per goal do not do justice to the complexity of the SDGs. The #SDGinPB project showed a general tendency to overestimate the progress of the Global North in achieving the SDGs. This was mainly due to the fact that almost all indicators used showed a positive correlation with GDP. Consequently, the model results uncritically support the economic growth paradigm, which ignores how much the historical growth in the Global North depends on the exploitation of the Global South. “Achieving the SDGs, after all, cannot be about countries in the Global South copying the development path of countries in the Global North,” Drees says.

The authors conclude, “Approaches like the doughnut and #SDGinPB are very valuable in raising public awareness of the connection between planetary boundaries and aspects of human well-being.” They contribute to the question of how compliance with planetary boundaries can be achieved and at the same time reconciled with the necessary development steps towards global human well-being. However, when it comes to concrete implementation in in policy recommendations, they say, it is essential to pay more attention to local specifics than is possible with global modeling approaches.

On the publication:

Drees, Lukas/Robert Lütkemeier/Heide Kerber (2021): Necessary or oversimplification? On the strengths and limitations of current assessments to integrate social dimensions in planetary boundaries. Ecological Indicators 129 (October), 108009

Scientific contact:

Lukas Drees
Phone +49 69 707 6919-41

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Phone +49 69 707 6919-51

 

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news-469 Thu, 16 Sep 2021 10:55:51 +0200 Research project AQUA-Hub India - Technology and knowledge transfer for sustainable water infrastructures https://www.isoe.de/news/technologie-und-wissenstransfer-fuer-nachhaltige-wasserinfrastrukturen/ India’s cities are rapidly growing and need an efficient infrastructure for water supply and wastewater disposal. However, current infrastructure development can hardly keep up with population growth. Therefore, a research cooperation composed of ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, Landesagentur Umwelttechnik BW (UTBW), partners from India, and German companies supports the development of a sustainable water infrastructure in India: “AQUA-Hub” combines the offer of innovative solutions with the respective demand and promotes the mutual transfer of technology and knowledge between German providers of water technology and Indian partners. With the so-called Water Innovation Hubs in the Indian cities of Coimbatore and Solarpur, the research partners of the AQUA-Hub project are currently preparing a platform to present blueprints for water infrastructure solutions that are especially suitable for fast-growing cities. Thus, the research project AQUA-Hub is a point of contact for Indo-German cooperation and the result of a previous joint research project of Fraunhofer IGB and ISOE. In that previous project “Smart Water Future India”, infrastructure solutions – exemplary for the metropolis of Coimbatore – were developed together with Indian stakeholders.

Background: In the megacity of Coimbatore in the south of the country, local waters are heavily polluted by urban wastewater. At the same time, however, the lakes in the urban area represent an important natural rainwater reservoir for the booming city and have the potential to make an important contribution to the quality of life of the population as a local recreation area. Coimbatore is representative of other cities in India. For their specific conditions, the research team had studied the challenges in more detail and identified needs for environmental technologies and smart water management strategies in order to attain sustainable water supply and disposal.

“In order to combine supply and demand for the solutions developed, we are now in the follow-up project AQUA-Hub establishing a kind of marketplace together with Fraunhofer IGB,” says ISOE water researcher Stefan Liehr. “It is our goal to demonstrate sustainable water technology solutions to Indian water stakeholders at this marketplace for subsequent application, thereby improving the quality of life for residents and the condition of water bodies and their environments.”

Sustainable water infrastructure and social innovation

Several factors are relevant for the success of solution approaches in the Indian market, he says. According to the ISOE water expert, the challenges lie particularly in combining technical and social innovations. “If new methods of water supply and disposal as well as water quality monitoring are to be used on a long-term basis, municipal water utilities need not only technological components, but holistic solutions that also include social innovations,” says Stefan Liehr. According to Liehr, social innovations include, for example, changed practices for operating technologies, changed accountability structures, and adapted forms of sharing information and acquire expertise.

For technology transfer to succeed, the approaches to solutions must be compatible and correspond to the needs and knowledge of the political-institutional decision-makers. International cooperation offers and local partnerships on the ground are also central for a successful implementation of water infrastructure solutions, he says. “This is what the Water Innovation Hubs are intended to contribute to in the long term,” Liehr says. The platform could offer companies and research institutes from Germany the opportunity to make their innovative technologies known on a local level, test them in pilot plants, develop them further under the specific conditions in India, and then ultimately bring them to application with the participation of customers. As the first demonstration project of the Water Innovation Hub in Coimbatore, the scientists are preparing the use of a smart system for the online monitoring of water quality.

The research project AQUA-Hub is funded as part of the Environmental Technologies Export Initiative (EXI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).

For more information, please go to www.isoe.de/en/nc/research/projects/project/aqua-hub

Scientific contact:

Dr. Stefan Liehr
Tel. +49 (0)69 707 6919-36
liehr(at)isoe.de

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 (0)69 707 6919-51
neugart(at)isoe.de

 

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news-449 Mon, 30 Aug 2021 11:52:00 +0200 Sustainable Development Solutions Network Germany - ISOE now member of the network of leading German knowledge organizations https://www.isoe.de/news/isoe-ist-mitglied-im-netzwerk-fuehrender-deutscher-wissensorganisationen/ ISOE has been accepted into the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Germany (SDSN Germany). Since its foundation in 2014, leading German knowledge organizations and partners from business and society have been cooperating in this network with the aim to promote sustainable development in Germany and to advance the German commitment to sustainable development within the European Union (EU) and worldwide. With its membership, ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research can further strengthen its research for sustainable development in national and international projects as well as the cooperation with actors from science and practice.  SDSN Germany and its members are part of the global network SDSN, which has been promoting scientific and technological expertise for sustainable development under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary-General since 2012. Together with its members and partners, SDSN Germany supports the advancement and implementation of the German Sustainability Strategy and connects current scientific debates with opportunities for concrete governance and implementation practices. In addition, SDSN Germany aims for a European and international perspective and advocates for a better coordination of sustainability processes on a national, European and global level. The network is particularly committed to achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs) and those of the Paris Climate Agreement. 

Exchange between science and practice on transdisciplinary research 

“We are pleased that ISOE can contribute to the network with its expertise in transdisciplinary sustainability research and its research projects at the regional, national and international level,” says Flurina Schneider, scientific director of ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research in Frankfurt. “We are also curious about the upcoming exchange, especially with regard to transdisciplinary dialogue and cooperation formats that involve politics, science, business and society and which play an important role within the network.” ISOE has been working with the transdisciplinary research mode since its foundation in 1989, bringing together different actors on the topic of sustainable development.

For more information go to: www.unsdsn.org

Scientific contact:

PD Dr. Diana Hummel 
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-33
 

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51
 

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news-448 Mon, 09 Aug 2021 12:32:47 +0200 Research cooperation with Bangladesh for better emergency medical care during floods - Strengthening disaster management worldwide and learning from one another https://www.isoe.de/news/katastrophenschutz-weltweit-staerken-und-voneinander-lernen/ Within the research project “FlutNetz”, the aim of the scientists from Goethe University Frankfurt, RWTH Aachen University and ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research in Frankfurt is to cooperate with partners from Bangladesh to improve emergency medical care during flood disasters in the country. In 2020, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) pledged 2.4 million euros in funding for the project. After a delay due to the pandemic, FlutNetz is now getting underway.  Bangladesh is one of the countries particularly affected by the consequences of climate change. The country is ranked seventh on the Climate Risk Index and is hit annually by flood disasters during the rainy season. The research project “FlutNetz”, consisting of scientists from Goethe University, RWTH Aachen, and ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, is investigating how medical care can be improved on site and how countries can learn from each other in the area of disaster management. The project is funded as part of the BMBF measure “International Disaster and Risk Management – IKARIM,” which has been supporting innovative, application-oriented approaches to disaster prevention and avoidance since 2018 as part of the German government’s “Research for Civil Security” program.

“So, in the event of a disaster, due to its experience with cyclones, Bangladesh is now well prepared to evacuate large parts of the population in time,” says Dr. Ulrich Kuch from the Institute of Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine at Goethe University, who is coordinating the research alliance. “Nevertheless, many people there die during floods, most frequently from drowning, snakebites, lightning and defective power lines; there is a lot of catching up to do in preventing and eliminating such hazards.” To explore how to effectively improve emergency medical care during flood disasters, the FlutNetz project is pursuing a composite strategy.

Disaster preparedness in Bangladesh

The scientists from Goethe University are focusing on the following research questions: Which population and occupational groups in the worst-affected regions can best be trained as disaster and first responders as well as professional rescue workers, after how long can they still properly apply the newly acquired skills, and how effective are they in an emergency? In parallel, an emergency center staffed with specially trained doctors and offering a telephone hotline will be established to get in touch with people who live in remote areas.
The research network will also operate an unmanned aerial system to deliver life-saving drugs to emergency patients. To this end, a flight system has been adapted at RWTH Aachen University capable of transporting medicines such as snake venom antivenins within the country and delivering them to the patients’ location. To withstand the challenging weather conditions during the rainy season, a high-performance tilt-wing system is used. This type of aircraft can operate fully automatically day and night over long distances and can withstand high winds.

Improving women’s and girls’ access to emergency care

In many countries, including Bangladesh, women and girls, as well as marginalized groups, have poorer access to care during and after flood disasters due to gendered role expectations and social norms. Children and the elderly are therefore more likely to die in floods. Therefore, in order to provide scientifically sound recommendations for more equitable access to health care in disaster situations, the experiences, needs and knowledge of the various affected groups of population and stakeholders regarding emergency care must be included. This is where ISOE contributes its expertise on issues of gender-sensitive social-ecological research: Within the overall project, data will be collected and analyzed with regard to the role of gender and affiliation to ethnic, cultural, religious, educational, income, and age groups.

“In the context of natural disasters and disaster management, we can learn a lot from Bangladesh. Conversely, there is a great need there for improvements concerning the access to and quality of health care; innovations and findings from Germany’s civil security research are just as much in demand as those gained from our health research,” Kuch explains. “However, the collaboration between Bangladesh and Germany on this issue also serves other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, many of which face very similar risk situations during flood events. We anticipate that concepts and results from the FlutNetz project will transfer well to affected regions in other countries.”

In addition to Goethe University Frankfurt, RWTH Aachen and ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research Frankfurt, several governmental organizations such as the Bangladesh Ministries of Health and Disaster Management as well as university hospitals in Bangladesh, medical societies and the non-governmental organization Center for Injury Prevention and Research Bangladesh (CIPRB) are collaborating in the project.

Scientific contact:

PD Dr. Diana Hummel
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-33

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51
 

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news-423 Wed, 02 Jun 2021 18:16:19 +0200 Sustainable development - A strategic compass for global sustainability research networks https://www.isoe.de/news/strategie-kompass-fuer-globale-netzwerke-der-nachhaltigkeitsforschung/ Solving complex sustainability problems requires the knowledge of many different scientific disciplines. But the experiential and everyday knowledge of societal actors also plays a crucial role. To achieve effective results for societal transformations, science must therefore open up to the co-production of knowledge. Research networks can support this process. In a study led by Flurina Schneider, scientific director of ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, scientists have investigated what is important in this process.  The UN Global Sustainable Development Report 2019 identifies science as one of four levers for achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), alongside governance, economics and finance, and individual and collective action. However, an increasing number of voices highlight the need for science itself to transform in order to produce effective solutions to the complex issues of sustainability transformation. This includes, for example, the call for changes in knowledge production processes. 

It is argued that in order to tackle global challenges such as climate change, purely scientifically generated knowledge is not enough. Rather, the experiential knowledge of social actors must also be taken into account as the joint production of knowledge increases the relevance, accountability and implementation of research results. For science, engaging in new partnerships across different disciplines with actors from government, business and civil society for the co-production of knowledge is still comparatively new. A recent study has now examined for the first time how global sustainability research networks can help to promote the co-production of knowledge.

Network compass for the co-production of knowledge

In their study “Co-Production of Knowledge and Sustainability Transformations: A Strategic Compass for Global Research Networks” the authors led by Flurina Schneider show the potential these networks have for knowledge co-production in research and how they can exploit it with the help of a “network compass.” Eleven global sustainability-oriented research networks such as the Global Land Project, the Mountain Research Initiative or the Alliance for Inter- and Transdisciplinary Research participated in the study. “The Network Compass highlights four interrelated fields of action through which global research networks can engage in processes of knowledge co-production,” explains Flurina Schneider, scientific director at ISOE and professor at Frankfurt Goethe University.

For example, research networks can start by bringing together different actors and thereby enable joint knowledge production (e.g. by organizing conferences). They can also provide targeted support to individual member institutions in co-producing knowledge (e.g., through training courses). Furthermore, the promotion of co-production processes between member institutions plays an important role in enhancing their overall transformative power (e.g., via synthesis activities for global assessment bodies such as IPCC). Finally, innovation within the network itself is crucial: “For networks to effectively engage in the co-production of knowledge, they often need to change their own structures and processes. This ranges from revisiting strategic plans to implementing model projects (prototypes),” says Flurina Schneider. 

Strategic tool for planning and evaluation in sustainability research 

The background to the study, now published in the prestigious journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, was the authors' observation that a variety of tools for co-producing knowledge in local contexts already exists, especially for specific research projects. “However, we have seen that global research networks do not yet have suitable strategic tools to accompany and strengthen the process of co-production of knowledge and sustainability transformations,” Schneider said. Here, the Network Compass can be a key tool, as it not only provides research networks with a suitable tool for future strategic planning, but can also be helpful for evaluating past sustainability activities.  


Schneider, Flurina/Theresa Tribaldos/Carolina Adler/Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs/Ariane de Bremond/Tobias Buser/Cornelia Krug/Marie-France Loutre/Sarah Moore/Albert V. Norström/Katsia Paulavets/Davnah Urbach/Eva Spehn/Gabriela Wülser/Ruben Zondervan (2021): Co-production of knowledge and sustainability transformations: a strategic compass for global research networks. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 49 (April), 127-142 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2021.04.007 

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news-387 Tue, 13 Apr 2021 11:37:00 +0200 Society and nature - Social-ecological biodiversity conservation can reduce the risk of pandemics https://www.isoe.de/news/sozial-oekologischer-biodiversitaetsschutz-kann-das-risiko-fuer-pandemien-verringern/ The UN Biodiversity Council warns that pandemics will increase, should nature and biodiversity not be better protected. However, scientists from ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research are pointing out that the preservation of biodiversity cannot be guaranteed with blanket decrees. For biodiversity protection measures to have a preventive effect against future pandemics, they must take into account regional and local characteristics as well as local knowledge and the needs of the local population. These recommendations for a social-ecological shaping approach have now been published in the journal Global Sustainability. The vast majority of emerging infectious diseases originate from human contact with wildlife and from the ever-increasing use of natural resources. Livestock, agriculture and mining are destroying pristine nature, savannahs and forests around the world. As a result of penetrating pristine habitats, humans and their livestock are increasingly coming into contact with naturally occurring pathogens. The transmission of these pathogens from animals to humans, so-called zoonoses and the outbreak of pandemics such as COVID-19 are thus becoming more likely. Both the legal and illegal wildlife trade accelerate this dynamic. In their latest report, scientists from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) are therefore urgently warning against the progression of environmental degradation as a cause of zoonoses. To reduce the risk of future pandemics, they are calling for stricter measures to preserve biodiversity and protect wildlife.

Better understanding relationships between nature and society

“Globally applicable conservation laws to preserve biodiversity are more important than ever, but they do not automatically solve the problem of increasing wildlife contacts and zoonoses,” says biodiversity expert Florian Dirk Schneider, lead author of the article that has just been published in the journal Global Sustainability. In order to develop effective and, above all, fair measures for biodiversity conservation as a prevention of zoonoses, he says, attention should focus on specific regional and local conditions because the way and extent to which people use nature can vary greatly from region to region and can have different reasons. “Social and ecological conditions influence needs and lifestyles, which can in turn have far-reaching effects on the extent to which natural resources are being used,” says Schneider. For example, the expansion of land used for agriculture or poaching can be driven by economic pressures and incentives and sometimes appear to be without alternative for the local population. The same applies to the market conditions of livestock farming in industrialized countries, which leave little room for health considerations. Schneider emphasizes, “We need to better understand these dynamics of use and the relationships between society and nature.”

Blanket regulations on biodiversity conservation are not sufficient

Rather than rigidly imposing blanket regulations from the top, the ISOE authors recommend understanding existing uses and practices in more detail and incorporating them into decisions for biodiversity conservation measures. Marion Mehring, co-author and head of the research unit Biodiversity and People at ISOE points out that “it is imperative for different values, traditions, and social norms that shape societal interaction with nature in various communities within regions of both the southern and northern hemispheres and in urban and rural habitats to be understood and incorporated into common solutions for biodiversity conservation”. Otherwise, she says, there is a risk that measures taken will not adequately reflect the needs of the local population and thus will either not be accepted or will fall short of fulfilling their needs. 

Complex dynamics of nature use, biodiversity and zoonoses

In order to develop biodiversity conservation as an effective prevention against future zoonoses it is the diverse local knowledge of the population as well as institutions and applied technologies on-site that are essential, the ISOE authors are stating. Mehring emphasizes that “more than ever, efforts to conserve biodiversity need to be strengthened in an inter- and transdisciplinary way. We can only break down the dynamics in the interplay of nature use, biodiversity, and the emergence of zoonotic diseases if we understand the diverse social-ecological interactions and interdependencies that underlie these dynamics. And here, a purely scientific view is not sufficient.” For the analysis and sustainable alignment of the dynamics found in local biodiversity use, the authors therefore describe in their publication an integrated social-ecological research approach that explicitly addresses the relationships and interactions of biodiversity and society.

New practices of co-existence between nature and society

In their article, the authors propose six social-ecological principles of shaping biodiversity conservation as an effective prevention against zoonoses. In response to current crises, these are intended to provide guidelines for researchers and policy makers in describing and identifying solutions for co-existence with nature. “If we consistently consider the social-ecological principles of shaping when developing biodiversity conservation measures, we can reduce the risk of future pandemics simultaneously,” says Mehring. What’s more, “the principles of shaping provide a basis for sustainable solutions regarding direct contact with nature locally, but always with a view to global challenges.”

Publication

Florian D. Schneider, Denise M. Matias, Stefanie Burkhart, Lukas Drees, Thomas Fickel, Diana Hummel, Stefan Liehr, Engelbert Schramm, and Marion Mehring (2021): Biodiversity conservation as infectious disease prevention: why a social-ecological perspective is essential. Global Sustainability. Cambridge University Press, 4, p. e13. doi: 10.1017/sus.2021.11 

Scientific contact:

Dr. Marion Mehring
Head of Research Unit Biodiversity and People
Phone +49 69 7076919-39
mehring(at)isoe.de

Dr. Florian Dirk Schneider
Tel. +49 69 7076919-71
schneider(at)isoe.de

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Phone +49 69 7076919-51
neugart(at)isoe.de

 

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news-390 Tue, 16 Mar 2021 11:21:00 +0100 World Water Day 2021 “Valuing Water” - The value of groundwater https://www.isoe.de/news/der-wert-des-grundwassers/ The United Nations has declared “Valuing Water” to be the motto for World Water Day on March 22. But in order to appreciate water, it is necessary to understand that drinking water is a precious resource. So far, too little attention has been paid to groundwater as the world’s most important source of drinking water. Groundwater is polluted in many places around the world, and more water is withdrawn than is replenished. ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research is investigating how groundwater can be better protected, thus drawing attention to the value of an “invisible” resource. Groundwater is the most important drinking water resource worldwide and the way it is handled in the future will be critical to feeding the global population as it affects both food production and drinking water supplies. “Nearly half of global agricultural irrigation feeds on groundwater. But in many parts of the world, groundwater supplies are being overexploited to such an extent that groundwater levels are falling drastically,” says ISOE water expert Stefan Liehr. Places with intensive agricultural irrigation, like the USA, China, Pakistan, India and North Africa, are especially affected. But in Europe, too, groundwater reservoirs are getting emptier, for example in Spain and southern France. Conflicts over access and distribution are no longer limited to particularly dry regions. Even in Germany, which is supposedly rich in water, conflicts over use are increasing.

Particularly in arid and semi-arid regions, however, extreme access to groundwater is causing so-called compensatory buffers to disappear. “This means that lakes, wetlands and rivers periodically dry up,” says Liehr, “a problem that is exacerbated by climate change.” The reason is rising temperatures that increase the rate of evaporation, and consequently less groundwater can form anew. This increases the risk of insufficient drinking water supplies and of food insecurity, as food production usually relies on groundwater supplies. “An appreciative handling of the resource is urgently needed in Europe as well,” says Liehr, “in other words, the resource must be managed sustainably.” 

Sustainable groundwater management to ensure quantity and quality

First of all, sustainable groundwater extraction means not withdrawing more water than can be replenished over the long term via the hydrologic cycle. However, the problem is even more complex, knows Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky, another water expert at ISOE. “For years, we have had persistently high substance inputs into the groundwater with partly unknown effects on ecosystems. So we are dealing with a quantity problem and a quality problem. This gives rise to conflicts over the resource, for example between agriculture, drinking water extraction and nature conservation”, reports Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky. Together with Robert Lütkemeier, she heads the junior research group regulate at ISOE that is exploring solutions for sustainable groundwater management in Europe. 

About a quarter of all European groundwater bodies are in poor chemical condition, with nitrate playing a crucial role. Also, the ecological value of groundwater is currently not recorded at all. “It is necessary to revise the current guidelines of the European Groundwater Directive. In addition, the protection of groundwater must be integrated into other policies, such as agricultural policy, because quite obviously the approaches in their existing form are not sufficient to guarantee the sustainable use of this valuable resource,” says Frick-Trzebitzky. A look at the root causes of the problem also shows that pressure on aquifers is not only caused by on-site abstraction in Europe’s so-called hotspot regions, she adds. “Transregional effects also contribute to overexploitation,” says Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky. “We’re talking about long-distance effects or telecoupling, which exacerbates the problem.” 

Appreciation of the “invisible” resource groundwater 

Telecoupling can be exemplified in virtual water trading. Here, regional groundwater contamination arises as a result of supraregional processes. For example, groundwater bodies in southern Spain are polluted by water withdrawals and pesticide and nutrient inputs used for the cultivation of vegetables. The vegetables are grown for export to Central Europe – thus the consumption of tomatoes traded in German supermarkets becomes directly linked to groundwater protection in southern Spain. This also raises questions about the distribution of decision-making power in groundwater-conserving agriculture.

Another example of telecoupling is the supply of water to metropolitan areas via long-distance pipelines. Metropolitan areas and large cities often cannot manage with on-site water resources and obtain additional drinking water that is fed in via long-distance pipelines from other regions. Round tables and similar cooperation models between different water users are intended to strengthen the joint protection of groundwater in the catchment area, for example in the Frankfurt area. “Nevertheless, there are always conflicts around the distribution of this limited, invisible resource and how to manage it sustainably,” says Frick-Trzebitzky. The UN’s 2030 Agenda enshrines sustainable water supply as a key goal to meet the water needs of the growing global population. “However, this goal will only be achievable if the issue of groundwater and a more appreciative approach to it is also given greater attention than in the past.” 

For more information on the regulate project, visit www.regulate-project.eu  
Follow regulate project on twitter: @regulateproject

Scientific contact:
Dr. Stefan Liehr 
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-36

www.isoe.de  

Dr. Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-55

Press contact:
Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51
 
www.isoe.de  
 

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news-374 Tue, 16 Feb 2021 08:07:00 +0100 Change within the executive board - Flurina Schneider becomes new scientific director of ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research https://www.isoe.de/news/flurina-schneider-wird-neue-wissenschaftliche-geschaeftsfuehrerin-des-isoe-institut-fuer-sozial-oekolo/ From April 1, 2021, Flurina Schneider is going to be new scientific director and spokesperson of the executive board of ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research. She is taking over from Thomas Jahn, who co-founded the Institute for Social-Ecological Research in 1989. Simultaneously, Flurina Schneider is taking up a professorship for social ecology at the Department of Biosciences at Goethe University Frankfurt. This way, ISOE and Goethe University are aiming to intensify their long-standing cooperation in research, teaching and transfer. The professorship is the first in Germany with a focus on social ecology. With the Swiss geographer Flurina Schneider, an internationally connected scientist with a proven track record in transdisciplinary sustainability research is joining ISOE. “With her extensive experience in international transdisciplinary research programs and her impressive research profile, Flurina Schneider brings excellent qualifications for her new task at ISOE,” says Thomas Jahn. Schneider’s research interests include sustainability transformations, participation and knowledge integration in transdisciplinary research, as well as governance and use of natural resources. Flurina Schneider thus presents an asset for the institute's research: early on, ISOE developed basic principles and methods for understanding, critically assessing and sustainably shaping social-ecological transformation processes and is now one of the leading institutes in transdisciplinary sustainability research.

Viable solutions for sustainable transformation processes

Consistently, ISOE scientists have focused on the transdisciplinary research mode that involves social actors in the research process. “In the current situation, in which climate, biodiversity and resource conflicts are coming to a head, we see how intense the pressure is for sustainable action in the Anthropocene,” says Alexandra Lux, spokesperson of the associates’ board of ISOE. “But the necessary social-ecological transformations can only succeed if they are supported by society. That is why we are particularly pleased that we could win Flurina Schneider, a highly competent and committed scientist, especially in the field of transdisciplinary research, for the position of scientific director ,” says Lux. 

First professorship for Social Ecology in Germany

The combination of the position of ISOE’s scientific director with a professorship in social ecology is a first. “The further development of social ecology not only as our research program, but also as a scientific field, is a central component of our concept for the future. And by putting this into practice, we also take up a recommendation made by the German Council of Science and Humanities in 2016,” says Alexandra Lux. With its Institutional Strategy 2022, ISOE has unequivocally decided to intensify its cooperation with Goethe University where the institute has already been taking on teaching tasks since 2008 on theoretical concepts, methods and empirical fields of application of social-ecological research. “The social-ecological explanatory models which have been shaped quite significantly by ISOE have contributed decisively to sustainability research in recent decades and have helped to better understand and shape transformation processes,” says Flurina Schneider. “For me, it is both a great pleasure and a challenge to have the opportunity to further expand social ecology in science and research together with my colleagues at the Institute.”

Practical research results

The Department of Biological Sciences had actively lobbied for the establishment of the professorship "Social Ecology" at Goethe University Frankfurt. Sven Klimpel, dean of the department, says: "The natural sciences are now conducting transdisciplinary research and among other things, they see added value in translating their research results into practical and viable concepts for society." He adds “It is therefore becoming increasingly important to relate basic research to discourses and decision-making processes in politics, economics, society and the social sciences”. With the appointment of Flurina Schneider, this research area will now be excellently represented.

Expertise in international sustainability research projects

Schneider’s academic career began with her PhD in 2008 on the topic of sustainable soil management in Swiss agriculture and the co-creation of knowledge through network building and social learning. She completed her habilitation in 2016 on the topic of transdisciplinary and transformative research for sustainable governance of natural resources with a view to intergenerational justice at the University of Bern, where she has been employed as a researcher since 2010. There, at the Center for Development and Environment (CDE), Flurina Schneider has been leading the Land Resources Cluster since 2017. Her scientific activities cover a broad spectrum of environmental and sustainability research: from soil conserving farming systems and quality assurance of eco-products on to equity in land and water governance and research projects dealing with the role of transdisciplinary knowledge production in sustainability transformations. Flurina Schneider has led research projects funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the Mercator Foundation, the International Science Council, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and has been abroad several times for research stays, such as a year at Arizona State University. 

As spokesperson of the institute’s executive board, Flurina Schneider will closely collaborate with its members, namely Diana Hummel, Martina Winker and Frank Schindelmann.

Scientific contact: 

Dr. Nicola Schuldt-Baumgart
Head of Knowledge Communication & Public Relations 
Tel. +49 69 707 69 19-30

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 707 69 19-51

 

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news-372 Fri, 12 Feb 2021 15:06:00 +0100 ISOE publication in the journal “Water” - Increased water use in times of lockdown. What do changing routines mean for supply security? https://www.isoe.de/news/erhoehter-wasserverbrauch-in-zeiten-des-lockdowns-was-bedeuten-veraenderte-routinen-fuer-die-versorgun/ The second half of March 2020 saw unprecedented changes in almost all areas of life as a result of measures taken to combat the Covid 19 pandemic in Germany. With the spring lockdown, water utilities also faced a new situation: water consumption changed, both in public and corporate facilities and in domestic housing. In their study of water consumption in a northern German supply region, water experts from ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research calculated an increase in consumption of more than 14 percent as a result of changes in everyday routines during the first lockdown. For their study, published in the January 2021 issue of the journal “Water”, water experts from ISOE examined daily and hourly water consumption volumes during the first wave of the Corona pandemic. The aim was to analyze the effect of the lockdown measures on water consumption in a scientifically sound manner and to make it visible in distinction to other influences. For this purpose, the scientists evaluated data from the almost one thousand square kilometer supply area of the water association WBV Harburg. In this area on the edge of the Hamburg metropolitan region south of the Elbe River, more than 180,000 people are supplied with drinking water. 

In order to capture the effect of socioeconomic and sociocultural restrictions on water consumption during the first wave of the pandemic, the scientists cleared  the consumption figures from other effects. Increased water consumption due to heat was for example removed using a linear mixed model. “Compared with water consumption figures from previous years in the suburban study region near Hamburg, there was an increase of 14.3 percent for 2020. We attribute this increase to changes in daily routines during the lockdown,” says Deike Lüdtke, lead author of the study “Increase in Daily Household Water Demand during the First Wave of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Germany”. Changes in leisure activities – such as bathing in private pools or an intensified gardening – can also be assumed as causes for increased water consumption.

Understanding daily routines to ensure supply security 

The changed routines during the first wave of the Corona pandemic were most noticeable in the morning and evening. “Changes in daily consumption are not trivial for water utilities,” Lüdtke says. Water companies rely on accurate forecasts, she says. “Sudden changes in consumer behavior can jeopardize the supply security of water companies. Therefore, it is crucial that everyday consumer routines are better understood and taken into account in water demand forecasts.” 

ISOE scientists anticipate that certain demand patterns attributable to behavioral changes during the initial lockdown will remain relevant for future water demand forecasts. “Demand patterns throughout the day showing a temporal shift regarding the usual peak demand in the morning and higher consumption in the evening, suggest new everyday practices, for example in connection with mobile working, that could be maintained beyond the pandemic,” Lüdtke said. Water suppliers should therefore prepare for adjustments to altered water use with the help of demand forecasts that should be as accurate as possible – although adjustments to future water consumption will also be necessary due to changing usage patterns during the mid-summer droughts. 

Water demand forecasts are increasingly difficult to make

“Realistic planning of future water consumption is becoming increasingly difficult because many influences on the demand have to be taken into account,” says co-author Stefan Liehr. In addition to climatic conditions, he says, demographic developments are also decisive, as are economic structures, which change particularly in times of crisis. This always leads to spatial shifts in demand, for example from commercial areas to residential areas. In order to make precise predictions, it is also essential to examine the habits of different user groups.

The current ISOE study in the above mentioned supply area confirms that: “The better we empirically study the everyday behavior of different user groups, the better we can predict what kind of consequences changes in everyday routines may have for supply security,” says Liehr. As head of the research unit “Water Supply and Land Use” at ISOE Stefan Liehr has already helped develop several forecasting models regarding water demand that can reliably map the complex influences in a supply area on a small scale.

Lüdtke, Deike U./Robert Lütkemeier/Michael Schneemann/Stefan Liehr (2021): Increase in Daily Household Water Demand during the First Wave of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Germany. Water 13 (3), 260

Scientific contact:

Dr. Stefan Liehr 
+49 69 707 6919-36

www.isoe.de 

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51
 
www.isoe.de 
 

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news-370 Thu, 11 Feb 2021 18:01:00 +0100 ISOE-Lecture with Dr. Kim De Wolff - How to Live Responsibly on a Plastic Planet  https://www.isoe.de/news/how-to-live-responsibly-on-a-plastic-planet/ ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research in Frankfurt am Main continues its event series “ISOE Lecture”. This year, an environmental humanities theme is the focus of the lecture, which for the first time cannot take place at the Goethe University Frankfurt due to the pandemic. Guest reader of the digital edition of the ISOE Lecture in the winter semester 2020/21 will be Dr. Kim De Wolff from the University of North Texas in Denton (USA). The environmental humanities scholar will address the question of how a responsible approach to plastic can be successful. The ISOE Lecture will be held in English on February 25, 2021. Plastic waste is constantly ending up in the oceans and pollutes the marine environments globally. Common solutions propagate an imperative of cleaning and sorting, for instance fishing plastic waste out of the oceans with considerable technical effort or preventing pollution in advance with the help of a “plastic-free” living. The environmental humanities scholar Kim De Wolff, who researches the connections between the global environment and everyday cultures, consumption and waste, considers those kind of strategies not to be very promising.

In the ISOE Lecture 2020/21, the U.S. scholar shows why solutions that aim solely at waste control – Kim De Wolff also speaks of “regimes of extraction and control” – are not sustainable: They emphasize the separation of nature and society instead of focusing on the complex interrelationships. In De Wolff's view, however, it is a prerequisite to take into account the lively relations of nature and society.

Scientific lecture series on topics in sustainability research

In her lecture, De Wolff will present an “ethics of entanglement” and, drawing on feminist new materialism as well as on Science and Technology Studies (STS), she argues that recognizing the powerful agency of plastic can ultimately contribute to less plastic waste. 

Since 2012, the ISOE Lecture has always taken place during the winter semester at Goethe University and is dedicated to current issues in sustainability research as well as to the presentation of concrete examples from science and research. The series aims to give students and researchers, as well as the interested public food for thought on how transitions to sustainable development can succeed and what role universities and science can play in this context.

How to Live Responsibly on a Plastic Planet 

Dr. Kim De Wolff 
Assistant Professor of Environmental Philosophy
University of North Texas, Denton (USA)

February 25, 2021, 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Online event
 

The lecture will be in English.

Register with the subject line “ISOE Lecture” at .

Take part in the discussion: #ISOE_Lecture

Organized by: ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research in cooperation with the subject area Industrial and Organizational Sociology, Environmental Sociology, Department 03, Goethe University. 

Scientific contact:

Dr. Johanna Kramm
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-16
 
www.isoe.de  

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51
 
www.isoe.de 
 

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news-366 Mon, 08 Feb 2021 11:55:31 +0100 Crisis, critique and shaping - ISOE blog on social ecology has been launched https://www.isoe.de/news/isoe-blog-zur-sozialen-oekologie-gestartet/ ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research has launched a new blog. Under the URL isoe.blog, ISOE researchers will from now on regularly write about sustainability issues and about results from their research practice. The ISOE blog “Social Ecology” is an invitation for discussion and aims to offer insight into the transdisciplinary research processes at ISOE. The blog also offers guest authors the opportunity to participate in debates on current crises and shaping approaches. From different perspectives, the first contributions are taking up questions that arise from the Corona crisis and set them in relation to social-ecological transformations. In his blog post, mobility researcher Konrad Götz looks at the drastic change in traffic behavior as a result of the Corona pandemic. Götz is dealing with the question of what consequences this situation will have for the future use of transportation on the one hand and new forms of work (keyword "home office”) on the other. In her English-language blog post, biodiversity researcher Denise Matias addresses different effects the pandemic has globally on various population groups. She explains why it is important to look at social and ecological justice issues from a completely new angle.

With these introductory contributions, the ISOE blog opens a platform for the discussion of social-ecological issues that scientists deal with in their everyday research. Topics include water, energy, climate protection, mobility, urban spaces, biodiversity and social-ecological systems. With the blog “Social Ecology”, ISOE wants to provide insights into its own research work, but also wants to show what are the specifics and challenges involved. The combination of crisis, critique and shaping the crisis, the subtitle of the blog, characterizes Social Ecology.

How do societies regulate their relations with nature?

This comparatively young scientific field, which has been strongly influenced by ISOE, has in recent decades made important contributions to interdisciplinary sustainability research: Social Ecology allows us to specifically ask how societies regulate their relationships with nature and when there is a risk of them not developing in a sustainable way. The ISOE blog shows the broad spectrum of ideas, concepts and theses on social-ecological research and invites discussion. Contributions from guest authors are welcome. 

At the same time, the blog creates a different approach to this field of science. “Not only social ecology, but every science thrives on exchange, criticism and consensus-building,” says Nicola Schuldt-Baumgart, head of knowledge communication and public relations at ISOE. “Accordingly, the blog also thrives on interaction between scientists from different disciplines and research institutions. And it offers all readers the opportunity to participate in these scientific discussions and to comment on them.” 

To the blog Social Ecology. Crisis – Critique – Shaping

Scientific contact:

Dr. Nicola Schuldt-Baumgart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-30
 
www.isoe.de  

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51
 
www.isoe.de  
 

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news-359 Fri, 22 Jan 2021 17:25:00 +0100 ISOE accompanies youth exchange Frankfurt – Lyon 2021 - Mobility and sustainability in a future-orientated metropolis https://www.isoe.de/news/mobilitaet-und-nachhaltigkeit-in-der-zukunftsfaehigen-grossstadt/ The Rhine-Main region with the city of Frankfurt is known to be a prospering metropolitan region just like the French city of Lyon and its surrounding area. How can the two populous cities, which have been twinned since 1961 combine mobility and sustainability in a future-orientated way? This is the topic of the Franco-German youth exchange in this anniversary year of 2021. ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research will offer events focusing on sustainable mobility for the exchange during the months of March and June 2021. Mobility and transport are closely intertwined since we want and need to move in order to fulfill our needs: be it to go shopping or to the pub, to college or to sporting activities. Sometimes we just drive around without any specific destination. Thus, being mobile is part of our current lifestyle. But road traffic that is mainly associated with being mobile also has its downsides, which are particularly evident in cities. Examples are environmental pollution caused by CO2 or particulate matter or the allocation of space in public areas. How do these negative impacts influence the quality of city life and how do they affect social coexistence?

These are questions concerning the “city of the future” that people in the Rhine-Main region are asking just as much as the residents of the Lyon region. Therefore, Stiftung Polytechnische Gesellschaft and Goethe-Institut Lyon have conceived a youth encounter on the topic of sustainable cities for 2021 on occasion of the 60th anniversary of the city partnership. On March 19 and 20, 2021, young adults can first expect a digital kick-off with practice-oriented lectures and interactive small groups with Prof. Dr. Michel Lussault from the École Urbaine de Lyon and ISOE mobility researcher Dr. Jutta Deffner. The two-day exchange in June will also include excursions to meet with experts in sustainable urban planning and actors in urban initiatives. 

Helping to shape the sustainable city of the future

For the youth encounter ISOE offers excursions to learning sites related to urban mobility culture in Frankfurt (for example, the main train station) as well as with scientific lectures on June 21. The formats are designed to be interactive and the questions that the participants will address are: What do young adults think the city and mobility of the future will look like? What changes do they consider to be socially, economically and ecologically necessary? “Together, we want to develop a new view on the city and life in the city,” says Jutta Deffner. On the one hand, that means understanding how a city deals with traffic and we want to find out: “Does a city just manage traffic or does it design new, sustainable concepts? Who participates in such decisions and processes and in what way?” 

On the other hand, it is about young people becoming clear about their own traffic behavior and mobility practices as well as their wishes and demands for mobility. “The topic of mobility moves young people a lot, both individually and with a general view to the future,” says Deffner. “We want to enable them to better understand connections between urban development and traffic, and, based on their own everyday experiences, to find out how they, as young citizens’, can actively help shape sustainable mobility in the city of the future.” The educational formats developed for this purpose are offered by ISOE in cooperation with “Umweltlernen in Frankfurt e.V.”

Find out more about the dates of the youth exchange Frankfurt – Lyon under www.jugendbegegnung-frankfurt-lyon-2021

Scientific contact person:

Dr. Jutta Deffner
Phone +49 69 707 6919-38
 
www.isoe.de 

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Phone +49 69 707 6919-51
 
www.isoe.de 

For further information please go to:

www.jugendbegegnung-frankfurt-lyon-2021
 

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news-344 Fri, 11 Dec 2020 13:00:00 +0100 Knowledge communication through images - Principles of shaping for social-ecological transformations vividly illustrated https://www.isoe.de/news/gestaltungsprinzipien-fuer-sozial-oekologische-transformationen-anschaulich-illustriert/ Social-ecological transformations are necessary for sustainable development. But how can society, science, politics and economy jointly initiate successful transformation processes? Scientists of ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research recently stated that a common perception of shaping is required and went on to develop basic principles for social-ecological shaping. ISOE has now developed illustrations that make these principles tangible. In the Anthropocene, the epoch of humanity, the pressure to act is enormous considering the unrestrained environmental changes with all their consequences for nature and society.

Moreover, global critical developments such as climate change or species extinction are complex, and there are various, sometimes competing and irreconcilable ideas about how to deal with them. How can the shaping of social-ecological transformations succeed under these conditions?

One prerequisite for solving complex problems is an understanding of shaping processes. In practice, however, there is a lack of successful concepts for how shaping can be initiated and implemented as a deliberate intervention into already ongoing transformation processes and how a change of direction towards sustainable developments can be set into motion.

Orientation for critical sustainability research 

ISOE researchers developed an approach for the social-ecological shaping of transformation processes and transferred it into six principles. These six principles of shaping provide orientation for critical sustainability research. They also serve as a basis for all those who are both scientifically and practically looking for alternative development processes. 

The illustrations show what the principles of shaping are basically concerned with. They are for example addressing the need to better understand the relationships between society and nature. Because only with this background knowledge is it possible to see climate change or species extinction as an expression of a crisis within these relationships. The other principles emphasize an effective participation of the actors involved in the democratic shaping process and also address complexity and the need to ensure that social-ecological systems are resilient to foreseeable environmental changes and can endure in practice. For the illustrated principles of shaping by Angelika Ullmann please go to https://www.isoe.de/en/research/principles-of-shaping/  

A detailed elaboration of the principles of shaping is provided in the following publication: 
Jahn, Thomas/Diana Hummel/Lukas Dress/Stefan Liehr/Alexandra Lux/Marion Mehring/Immanuel Stieß/Carolin Völker/Martina Winker/Martin Zimmermann (2020): Shaping social-ecological transformations in the Anthropocene. ISOE-Diskussionspapiere, 45. Frankfurt am Main (originally published in German in GAIA 29/2 (2020): 93–97)

Scientific contact:

Dr. Nicola Schuldt-Baumgart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-30

www.isoe.de   

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51
 
www.isoe.de 

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news-340 Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:46:59 +0100 Results of the PlastX research group - Social-ecological research on plastics in the environment https://www.isoe.de/news/sozial-oekologische-forschung-zu-plastik-in-der-umwelt/ Plastic is an ambivalent material: On the one hand, due to their versatile properties and their wide range of applications plastics have revolutionized many areas of daily life in the past decades. On the other hand, plastic poses a complex environmental problem due to its production, use and disposal. Since 2016, the PlastX research group under the direction of ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research has been investigating the social role of plastics and the associated environmental impact. An overview of the research results is now available as a publication. Worldwide, 360 million tons of plastic are produced annually, a large part of which is used for packaging. These materials are practical, especially for food, but cause many tons of plastic waste with consequences for the environment. Through improper disposal, every year about five to 12 million tons of plastic waste are discharged into seas and oceans via rivers. When the durable material decomposes, smaller plastic fragments, so-called microplastics, are generated which are then absorbed by various water organisms. Furthermore, sea animals or water birds can get tangled up in the larger plastic waste and die as a result.

The damage to the ecosystems caused by the disposal of plastic is undisputed. However, the direct and indirect environmental and health consequences of the use of plastics are still not well understood. Amongst other things, chemical ingredients or microplastics are discussed in the current publication. So-called plastic-associated chemicals, such as plasticizers, are suspected to have harmful effects on human health and the animal world. 

Plastic in the environment as a systemic risk

The problem is indeed complex. The risks associated with the production, use and disposal of plastic are strongly interlinked. Many different actors in various constellations bear responsibility. The question is, how research can address this complexity? The PlastX research group has worked on the systemic risk from a socio-ecological perspective in an inter- and transdisciplinary way. The PlastX group, led by human geographer Johanna Kramm and ecotoxicologist Carolin Völker, has focused its work on microplastics, marine litter, packaging reduction and bioplastics.

In the course of their research work in the fields of human geography, sociology, chemistry and ecotoxicology, the scientists have now developed core messages which also incorporate questions and findings, problem views and everyday knowledge from practical experience. To make this possible, the research team worked together with partners from the fields of environmental consulting, development cooperation, food retailing, nature conservation, consumer protection as well as water and waste management. 

Key messages on microplastics, marine waste, packaging and chemical ingredients

The PlastX researchers consider the fact decisive that the multitude of problems posed by plastic cannot be countered with simple solutions. Rather, various and fundamental changes in the use of plastics are necessary. The avoidance of waste entries into the environment plays a particularly important role in this respect. If we look for example at marine waste, we see that it is mainly discharged from land-based sources. Here, it is important to find solutions. Changing consumer habits, the adequate establishment of locally adapted waste infrastructure and the consistent enforcement of environmental protection regulations can all make a significant contribution.

Further key messages refer to solutions in the areas of sustainable packaging, biodegradable plastics and ingredients in plastic packaging. More important information on the sustainable use of plastics is provided by the results of studies on the toxicological safety of plastics for humans and the environment and on the risk assessment of microplastics. The results are now provided in a preliminary publication (only available in German) which will be finalized after the end of the project in 2021. The publication is aimed at science and society i.e. at actors in research and practice, in associations, in industry and in politics.

Publication:

Sozial-ökologische Forschung zu Plastik in der Umwelt. Ergebnisse der Forschungsgruppe PlastX (Social-ecological research on plastics in the environment. Results elaborated by the research group PlastX – only available in German) Johanna Kramm, Carolin Völker, Tobias Haider, Heide Kerber, Lukas Sattlegger, and Lisa Zimmermann (2020). ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, Frankfurt am Main. Download

Scientific contacts:

Dr. Johanna Kramm
Head of Junior Research Group PlastX
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-16
 
www.isoe.de 

Dr. Carolin Völker
Head of Junior Research Group PlastX
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-59

www.isoe.de 

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51
 
www.isoe.de 
 

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news-335 Thu, 05 Nov 2020 11:16:37 +0100 Control of the Asian Bush Mosquito - Using natural agents against potential carriers of disease https://www.isoe.de/news/mit-natuerlichen-mitteln-gegen-potenzielle-krankheitstraeger/ More and more exotic mosquitoes are being found in Germany − in addition, pathogens associated with these insects are becoming more common. In the future, therefore, more control agents against the potential disease vectors will be necessary. Experiments by Senckenberg scientists show that essential clove oil and copper coins could be suitable for this purpose. A telephone survey conducted by researchers from ISOE − Institute for Social-Ecological Research showed that potential users would prefer to use agents like this rather than a conventional insecticide. In the development of new insecticides, the opinion of potential users should be taken into account, especially with regard to the practicability of the products, the team writes in the journal “Scientific Reports”. Mosquitoes are rarely popular. Exotic representatives of this insect species are particularly undesirable. However, such mosquitoes are increasingly spreading in Germany due to globalization and climate change − and in addition, viruses transmitted by mosquitoes are becoming more common. The Asian bush mosquito Aedes japonicus japonicus, for example, is a possible carrier of the Japanese encephalitis virus and West Nile virus as well as the pathogens of dengue fever and chikungunya fever.

“To prevent these mosquitoes from transmitting diseases, it may be necessary to control them in the future, i.e. to reduce their numbers. To control the larvae, only the active ingredient Bacillus thuriengiensis israelensis (Bti) is currently available to private individuals. It is considered to be species specific, but is controversial because there are indications that it also kills other animals, such as mosquitoes that are important for the food chain. Additional agents are therefore urgently needed,” says Dr. Friederike Reuss, Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center.

Field experiment with clove oil and copper coins

A team led by Reuss therefore conducted a field experiment to test how well essential clove oil and copper in the form of copper tape works against the egg deposition of the Asian bush mosquito in stagnant waters. In addition, the researchers also tested in their laboratory how poisonous one-, two- and five-cent pieces and clove oil containing copper are for the mosquito larvae. 

Reuss explains: “Clove oil considerably prevents the egg deposition of Aedes japonicus − the most widespread exotic mosquito in Germany. One gram of clove oil in a cup is enough to reduce the egg deposition in it to a tenth. Moreover, clove oil is poisonous and kills the larvae completely. Copper dissolved from eurocent coins is slightly less efficient against the larvae, but still effective. The two natural remedies would therefore be suitable for reducing a population of Asian bush mosquitoes”.

From field experiments to application − help from the local population is needed

The Asian bush mosquito broods preferably near settlements. There, even small water surfaces in rain barrels, coasters and vases in private gardens and cemeteries offer the mosquitoes the best conditions. “In order to control the mosquitoes, it is therefore important that the local population actively participates and actually uses the remedies in their own gardens,” says Dr. Marion Mehring of ISOE − Institute for Social-Ecological Research.

ISOE researchers under the direction of Mehring interviewed more than 400 gardeners and grave attendants from Hesse, Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate by telephone on this topic. Surprisingly, the majority of participants reject the well-established active ingredient Bti. “Potential users would prefer to use copper-Eurocent coins and essential oils instead of Bti to combat mosquitoes. The respondents would prefer to use copper coins, which practically all of them have in their purse,” says Mehring. A large number of respondents are also willing to implement preventive measures in their daily lives such as covering rain barrels.

Interdisciplinary cooperation to develop environmentally friendly measures

The interdisciplinary cooperation i.e. the combination of ecological and social science research has paid off: With clove oil and copper coins, the researchers were able to identify two agents of controlling Asian bush mosquitoes that are accepted by users and that can now be further developed. 

The study is part of the AJAP II research project to develop environmentally friendly measures for the control of the Asian Bush Mosquito. The Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center, ISOE − Institute for Social-Ecological Research and the Institut für Arbeitsmedizin, Sozialmedizin und Umweltmedizin of the Goethe University Frankfurt am Main are cooperating in this project. The project is funded by the Fachzentrum Klimawandel und Anpassung of the Hessian Agency for Nature Conservation, Environment and Geology (HLNUG).

Scientific contact:

Dr. Marion Mehring
Head of Research Unit Biodiversity and People
Phone +49 69 7076919-39

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Phone +49 69 7076919-51

Publication:

Reuss, Friederike/Aljoscha Kreß/Markus Braun/Axel Magdeburg/Markus Pfenninger/Ruth Müller/Marion Mehring (2020): Knowledge on exotic mosquitoes in Germany, and public acceptance and effectiveness of Bti and two self-prepared insecticides against Aedes japonicus japonicus. scientific reports 10 (18901), doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-75780-5

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news-331 Tue, 27 Oct 2020 10:39:00 +0100 Pharmaceutical residues in the environment - Ask your doctor or pharmacist https://www.isoe.de/news/fragen-sie-ihre-aerztin-oder-ihren-apotheker/ No matter if it’s painkillers, antibiotics, antihypertensives or psychotropic drugs: drug residues usually enter the environment via domestic wastewater. However, many consumers do not even know that they contribute to this environmental problem by taking and incorrectly disposing of drugs. Here, doctors and pharmacists are come into play to fill the knowledge gaps, because they play a key role in communicating environmental risks and drugs. ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research has investigated how to sensitize these two professional groups to this important environmental and consumer issue and train them accordingly. Many consumers are not aware of the following side effect when using drugs: the active substance is not completely metabolised by the body and is excreted again via the urine and faeces. Thus large quantities of active g substances get into the wastewater treatment plants via wastewater. In spite of the high technical effort involved, the plants cannot completely degrade the large number of chemical compounds. Via the discharge of the wastewater treatment plants into rivers and lakes, the pharmaceutical residues then find their way into the environment, water bodies and groundwater. The same effect occurs when drugs are incorrectly disposed of into the toilet. 

A survey conducted by ISOE in 2014 showed how big the knowledge gaps are, especially with regard to proper disposal: “At that time, 47 percent of those surveyed stated that liquid medication residues were sometimes disposed of into the sink or toilet, i.e. incorrectly”, reports ISOE researcher Martina Winker. “It was obvious that consumers needed to be better informed about how to take and dispose of them correctly in order to avoid possible environmental risks”, says Winker. “The question was: Who should give the information?”

Anchoring environmentally conscious handling of drugs already in medical and pharmaceutical studies

ISOE's research team has focused on professional groups within the medical and pharmaceutical field because they play a key role in communicating information regarding pharmaceuticals and environmental risks. “We cooperate with pharmacists and doctors whenever awareness of the problem and knowledge about environmental effects and medicines are central as these are the people who consumers trust when it comes to prescribing drugs”, explains Winker.

In the further training courses offered by ISOE in cooperation with the State Medical Association and the State Chamber of Pharmacists of Baden-Württemberg, information deficits were revealed in these occupational groups, which are central to the handling of drugs. “For example, it was not clear to all doctors that drug leftovers must be disposed of via the residual waste”, reports Winker. “We also found it remarkable that despite its importance the topic of pharmaceutical residues in the environment is not anchored in medical and pharmaceutical studies. So, there are still many knowledge gaps to be closed”.

Handbook for knowledge transfer on the topic of pharmaceutical residues in water

A handbook that has just been published under the lead of the ISOE researcher on behalf of the Federal Environment Agency can help in this respect. It gives recommendations for multipliers such as federal and state chambers of pharmacists, foundations, academies, colleges and universities and it shows how didactic concepts for training and further training courses in pharmacy can actually look like. Concepts, practical examples of implementation, and publications are also available on teaching formats that specifically address physicians so that they can inform their patients appropriately about the environmentally conscious use of drugs. 

With their recommendations for anchoring knowledge about pharmaceutical residues in water, ISOE researchers are guided by the precautionary principle. While the negative effects of pharmaceutical residues on aquatic organisms are now well known, lack of knowledge still prevails when it comes to the long-term consequences of continuous discharges of even low concentrations on humans and the environment. Martina Winker is convinced that “doctors and pharmacists who discuss environmentally relevant aspects of drugs such as proper disposal during consultations, recommending smaller package sizes whenever possible or suggesting non-drug treatments as a precautionary measure can contribute to minimizing the risks for humans and the environment”. 

Scientific contact:

Dr.-Ing. Martina Winker
Water Infrastructure and Risk Analyses
Tel. +49 69 7076919-53
 
www.isoe.de 

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
Tel. +49 69 7076919-51
neugart(at)isoe.de 
www.isoe.de 

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news-314 Thu, 17 Sep 2020 10:34:00 +0200 Laboratory study analyzes the toxicity of bioplastics and plant-based materials - Chemicals in bioplastics not safer than those in conventional plastics  https://www.isoe.de/news/bioplastik-ist-keine-unbedenkliche-alternative-zu-herkoemmlichen-kunststoffen/ So-called “bioplastics” are marketed as an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional, petroleum-based plastics. They can be made from renewable feedstock, might be bio-degradable or even both. The question is however if these biomaterials are safer than conventional plastics with regard to the chemicals they contain. A new study published today in the journal Environment International addresses this question. Scientists have analyzed everyday products made of bio-based and/or biodegradable materials now report that the chemicals these alternatives contain are similarly toxic like those in conventional plastics. Plastic products are under a lot of public pressure: The manufacturing from petroleum is considered unsustainable, the global plastic waste problem is largely unsolved, and, since they can contain toxic substances such as bisphenol A, everyday plastics often make the headlines. In response, new materials have entered the market promising a better environmental footprint. These include bioplastics that can be bio-based, that is made from renewable feedstock (e.g., bio-polyethylene) as well as biodegradable, that is they degrade under natural conditions such as polylactic acid. Other alternative materials can be made from plant-based materials, such as cellulose. But are these biomaterials safer than conventional plastics with regards to the chemicals they contain? 

Three out of four products contain chemicals that are toxic in vitro

The PlastX research group, led by the Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE), has addressed this question in a new study in collaboration with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the Goethe University of Frankfurt. It is the most comprehensive study to date that analyzes the chemical composition and toxicity of bioplastics and plant-based materials and compares them with conventional plastics. “In order to test for potential adverse effects of plastic chemicals, we extracted them from the everyday products and analyzed them to in vitro bioassays,” explains Lisa Zimmermann, first author of the study. “Our results demonstrate that bio-based and biodegradable materials are no safer than conventional ones. Three-quarters of the products contained harmful chemicals,” says Zimmermann. “This means that the products contain chemicals that have toxic effects in cells or act like hormones. The same is true for conventional plastics. Again, we found that three out of four products contained harmful chemicals.”

Biomaterials contain up to 20.000 chemicals

The 43 bio-based and biodegradable products that were studied included for instance disposable tableware, chocolate packaging, drinking bottles and wine corks. Chemical analysis demonstrated that 80% of the products contained more than a thousand, some products even up to 20,000 chemicals. “Cellulose- and starch-based products contained most chemicals. They also triggered a stronger in vitro toxicity than others,” explains the biologist Zimmermann. 

From raw material to end product: overall toxicity increases

On the one hand, the study revealed that the end products analyzed contained a wider range of chemicals and a higher toxicity than the raw materials from which they were manufactured. That indicates that new substances are added or generated during the conversion of the raw material into the final product. On the other hand, each bio-based and biodegradable product had an “individual” chemical composition. “That makes it almost impossible to make general statements about the safety of specific materials,” explains co-author Martin Wagner from the University of Trondheim. “While a bio-polyethylene bag intended for food contact might contain toxic chemicals, a wine cork made of the same material might not and vice versa”. 

Chemical safety of plastics should move onto the political agenda

The study shows: “For consumers it is not apparent whether they come in contact with harmful plastics, regardless of whether they are conventional or bio,” states the PlastX project manager Carolin Völker. Therefore, she demands that the safety of chemicals used in plastics and in alternative materials is guaranteed and already taken into consideration during the development of new materials. “Especially since we are seeing a strong trend towards biomaterials, the aspect of chemicals safety needs to be put on the political agenda.” So far, the precise effects of plastic chemicals on humans and the environment are still unknown and therefore further studies are needed that evaluate the risk of plastics and its alternatives. In vitro studies provide first evidence but are clearly not sufficient to determine health and environmental impacts comprehensively. “In order to develop better alternatives to conventional plastics, ecological and societal aspects must be considered in addition to their chemical safety. These aspects include greenhouse gas emissions, competition with food production and recyclability”. Because here too, just like with bioplastics much remains to be desired, Völker says.

Are bioplastics and plant-based materials safer than conventional plastics? In vitro toxicity and chemical composition. Lisa Zimmermann, Andrea Dombrowski, Carolin Völker, Martin Wagner (2020). Environment International, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2020.106066

In addition, you will find graphical material for your use at 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/102295333@N04/albums/72157715925379311

About the PlastX research group 

The interdisciplinary junior research group PlastX – Plastics as a Systemic Risk for Social-Ecological Supply Systems is funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) within its programme “Research for sustainable developments (FONA)”. PlastX forms part of the funding area "Junior Groups in Social-Ecological Research." Since 2016, six scientists have been investigating the problems posed by plastics from a social-ecological perspective. Their research partners in this endeavour are ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research (lead institute), the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI), Department of Physical Chemistry of Polymers, and Goethe University Frankfurt, Department of Aquatic Ecotoxicology. www.plastx.org  

Scientific contact:

Lisa Zimmermann
Junior research group PlastX 
L.Zimmermann(at)bio.uni-frankfurt.de 

Press contact:

Melanie Neugart
ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research
Hamburger Allee 45
60486 Frankfurt am Main
Tel. +49 69 7076919-51
neugart(at)isoe.de
www.isoe.de  

Download

Press Release as PDF

 

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news-311 Thu, 10 Sep 2020 16:05:00 +0200 New junior research group regulate - Research for sustainable groundwater management in Europe  https://www.isoe.de/news/forschung-fuer-eine-nachhaltige-grundwasserbewirtschaftung-in-europa/ Groundwater is the most important drinking water resource worldwide and at the same time a unique habitat for animal organisms. However, the conservation of this valuable resource is neglected both locally and globally. This particularly applies to some hotspot regions in Europe, where groundwater is polluted and where more water is extracted than recharged. But the pressure on the aquifers is not only caused by on-site activities. Supra-regional effects also contribute to overuse. These remote effects are what the junior research group regulate, led by ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research will examine, with the aim of finding solutions for sustainable groundwater management in Europe. The research group is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).  Extreme heat and low precipitation: In the summers of 2018 and 2019 not only Southern Europe was subject to droughts. In northern Europe, too, the “summers of the century” led to severe droughts. The first half of 2020 has once again proven to be too dry, so as a consequence groundwater levels have not yet recovered in many regions. “In addition to the issue of insufficient European groundwater resources, quality is increasingly becoming a problem. This results in conflicts over the resource, for example between agriculture, drinking water supply and nature conservation,” says ISOE water expert Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky. About a quarter of all European groundwater bodies are in a chemically poor condition, with nitrate playing a decisive role. “It is obvious that the current requirements of the European Groundwater Directive are not sufficient to guarantee the sustainable use of this valuable resource”.

Under the leadership of Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky and Robert Luetkemeier from ISOE, the junior research group regulate wants to help ensure that the complex interdependencies that are contributing to the negative development of the European groundwater systems are better understood. “We know that certain types of use and economies as well as population dynamics and the consequences of climate change affect the quality and availability of groundwater,” says Robert Luetkemeier, “but the exact connections, especially between local water withdrawals and regional effects, so-called telecouplings, have not yet been examined”. The research group with four doctoral researchers is a cooperation between ISOE, Goethe University Frankfurt and University of Koblenz-Landau.

Groundwater, the invisible resource: recommendations for a European water policy 

In September 2020, the junior research group has started working with the aim to investigate the manifold telecouplings to be found in connection with groundwater. The interdisciplinary team will consider hydrological, geographical, ethnological and ecological perspectives. They will particularly look at socio-economic and political processes in Europe, with a focus on the problems of drought, nitrate pollution and resulting conflicts. “To investigate the background of the current use of groundwater also means to analyse the weaknesses of current European water policy and to point out possible adaptations,” says Luetkemeier. “Conclusions for sustainable management can then be developed for water authorities as well as for user groups such as agriculture, water companies, and industry.” 

In short, regulate aims to find application-oriented recommendations for a sustainable use of the invisible resource. “For this purpose we also involve stakeholders from politics, water management, industry and agriculture in the research process,” explains Frick-Trzebitzky. “The practical results should then be available to other regions of the world and may serve as a blueprint for sustainable groundwater management.”

About the project 

The junior research group “regulate – regulation of groundwater in telecoupled social-ecological systems” is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the program “Research for Sustainable Development (FONA)”. The regulate project is part of the funding measure “SOEF – Social-ecological Research” in the funding area “Junior Research Groups in Social-Ecological Research”. 

More information is available at www.regulate-project.eu
 

Contact

Dr. Fanny Frick-Trzebitzky 
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-55
frick(at)isoe.de

Dr. Robert Lütkemeier
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-58
luetkemeier(at)isoe.de

www.isoe.de 
www.regulate-project.eu

Media contact

Melanie Neugart
ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research
Hamburger Allee 45
60486 Frankfurt am Main
Germany
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-51

www.isoe.de 

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news-309 Wed, 26 Aug 2020 13:46:00 +0200 Recommended reading - The garbage in our seas – symbol of the throwaway society https://www.isoe.de/news/der-muell-in-unseren-meeren-sinnbild-der-wegwerfgesellschaft/ ​​​​​​​Seas and oceans have fascinated mankind since time immemorial – as the largest coherent ecosystem in the world and also as a dream destination for recreational purposes. And even though this unique habitat has been used for waste disposal for centuries, the exponential increase of waste in the seas, especially plastic, is due only to modern production and consumption patterns. Today, the waste problem in seas and oceans is a symbol of the “throwaway society”. In a recent article for the magazine “Geografische Rundschau”, the two ISOE authors Heide Kerber and Johanna Kramm outline the complex interrelations behind one of the biggest environmental problems of our time. Of all the garbage in the oceans, plastics are the most common. Besides wood, glass, metals, rubber and textiles, plastic accounts for 75 percent of all waste. Due to their durability, plastic products remain a problem on coasts and “at sea” for decades. For example, sea animals and seabirds can get tangled up in plastic or swallow plastic parts. And the problems don’t stop there: plastics also cause environmental and health problems in coastal areas and ultimately considerable costs, as for instance sewers clogged with plastic or littered beaches have to be cleaned.

Heide Kerber and Johanna Kramm from the PlastX research group under the direction of the ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research are addressing this issue in their article “The garbage in our seas: Causes, Consequences, Solutions” where they discuss the possibilities and limitations of local and global solutions. Using Vietnam, one of the Southeast Asian “hotspots” of plastic waste entry, as an example, the authors show why the problem of waste cannot be solved quite so easily despite national solution strategies and local efforts. A widespread lack of environmental awareness and an inadequate waste infrastructure are decisive factors. “In the long term, what is needed is not only an effective infrastructure, but also new, less one-way oriented consumption practices,” they summarize the challenges ahead for the Southeast Asian region as well as worldwide. After all, plastic waste mainly ends up in the sea via land. These so-called land-based sources include leisure activities in coastal areas, but even garbage carelessly discarded at a greater distance can find its way to the beaches and into the sea via wind or rivers.

So far, barely more than declarations of intent: Global solution strategies

In view of these problems, work has been stepped up for some years now on measures to reduce the input of plastics from land-based sources into seas and oceans. However, in order to develop global, holistic solution strategies, it will be necessary to bring a large number of actors together, each with their own perception of the problem and competing views and intentions. These are: Political actors, the plastics producing and processing industries, non-governmental environmental organizations, civil society organizations, international development organizations and the scientific community. Even though there are already far-reaching global cooperation platforms as well as agreements, framework guidelines, and non-binding agreements there is still a long way to go from the solution strategies that have been developed to a global legally binding “plastics convention”.

Currently, first binding agreements remain fragmentary because they are based on a patchwork of parallel regulatory meetings causing many of the groups of actors involved in the problem to regard the legal framework as confusing. At the same time, there is often a lack of monitoring and enforcement mechanisms to sanction violations of existing regulations.

There is a lack of differentiated sanction and enforcement mechanisms

As the two ISOE researchers point out, it is difficult to effectively reduce marine litter since it comes from a variety of sources. It is almost impossible to put a figure on the entry sources and quantities of plastic waste. Moreover, plastic waste can be transported over long distances and accumulates in international waters. “This often means that the underlying connection between cause and effect is missing, which also makes it difficult to assign responsibilities in a differentiated way”.

In addition to legal regulations and financial incentives it is therefore important to create stronger global incentives to minimize the production and consumption of plastic disposables worldwide and to strengthen environmental awareness. Furthermore, companies should take responsibility for the proper disposal and recycling of their short-lived consumer goods. And last but not least, differentiated sanction and enforcement mechanisms are needed to ensure that regulations and multi-stakeholder agreements are more than just declarations of intent.

Der Müll in unseren Meeren. Ursachen, Folgen, Lösungen.
Heide Kerber, Johanna Kramm (2020). Geographische Rundschau (7/8), 16-20 
www.isoe-publikationen.de

Scientific contact:

Heide Kerber
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-54
 
www.isoe.de 

Media contact:

Dr. Nicola Schuldt-Baumgart 
Tel. +49 69 707 6919-30
 
www.isoe.de 

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