micle – Climate Change, Changes to the Environment and Migration in Sahel

The micle project examines whether climate-related changes to the environment are the trigger for migratory movement by linking social with scientific data.

Research approach

micle seeks to bring about a better understanding of the complex interactions between ecological, social, economic and political factors. In addition it looks to develop a method for integrating and modelling the social and scientific findings. The practical goal of the project is to identify different options for formative action open to policy makers and other relevant players based on different scenarios. The joint project is co-ordinated by ISOE.

Empirical surveys

The team is conducting an empirical survey of migrants within their regions of origin and their chosen destinations.  Together with the University of Bayreuth, Centre for Natural Risks and Development (Dr. Martin Doevenspeck), ISOE is investigating how environmental change is perceived by those affected and how it affects the decision to migrate.

Remote sensing

The socio-scientific results are tied into geoscientific data from remote sensing in the Sahel region. For example, the group around Professor Cyrus Samimi at Vienna University's Department of Geography and Regional Research is surveying and analysing changes in rainfall and their consequences for the vegetation and land use.


These approaches are supplemented with demographic data on migration in Senegal and Mali, particularly pertaining to age, gender and level of education. In this way it is possible to get a more accurate reading of social vulnerability. The demographic analysis is the domain of ISOE in collaboration with Professor Lutz from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA, Austria).


The debate on climate change already accepts as fact that Europe must reckon with a growing number of "climate refugees". But so far, such prognoses have hardly been subject to any scientific scrutiny at all. Whether and under what socio-ecological conditions climate change will actually trigger migratory movement is under review in micle.

Cooperation partners

  • Universität Bayreuth, Zentrum für Naturrisiken und Entwicklung, Lehrstuhl für Bevölkerungs- und Sozialgeographie
  • Universität Wien, Institut für Geographie und Regionalforschung

Research partners

  • International Institute for Applied System Analysis (IIASA), Laxenburg, Prof. Wolfgang Lutz


Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Funding programme Social-Ecological Research


Hummel, Diana (2021): The nexus between climate change, migration and gender. In: Eastin, Joshua/Kendra Dupuy (Hg.): Gender, Climate Change and Livelihoods. Vulnerabilities and Adaptations. Oxfordshire/Boston: CABI, 159-173

Hummel, Diana/Marion Mehring (2019): On the Move. Mobilität und sozial-ökologische Transformationen im westafrikanischen Sahel und in der Mongolei. Natur Forschung Museum 149 (10-12), 172-175

Liehr, Stefan/Lukas Drees/Diana Hummel (2016): Migration as Societal Response to Climate Change and Land Degradation in Mali and Senegal. In: Yaro, Joseph A./Jan Hesselberg (Hg.): Adaptation to Climate Change and Variability in Rural West Africa. Heidelberg: Springer, 147-169

Drees, Lukas/Stefan Liehr (2015): Using Bayesian belief networks to analyse social-ecological conditions for migration in the Sahel. Global Environmental Change 35 (November 2015), 323-339

Hummel, Diana (2015): Climate change, land degradation and migration in Mali and Senegal – some policy implications.Migration and Development 

Hummel, Diana (2015): Climate change, environment and migration in the Sahel. Rural 21, 01, 40–41

micle (2014): Social-ecological conditions of migration in the Sahel. micle policy paper (pdf) 


2010/09 – 2014/04