E.C.O. Institute of Ecology
  • Carinthia, Austria
Recent publications
Sustainability is not a single concept, but a bundle of concepts that has broadened significantly in recent decades. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) must therefore not only impart new knowledge but should also focus on supporting its students in acquiring new competences, both on a personal and an institutional level. Games and gamification can be important instruments for developing these competencies and experimenting in very different situations, simulating different scenarios and experiencing unexpected situations and outcomes.
Monitoring von Entwicklungen und Trends in Biosphere Reserves (BR) ist nicht nur ein formelles Erfordernis, sondern auch eine Notwendigkeit, um ein Verständnis über die Wirkung von Interventionen für eine nachhaltige Entwicklung zu gewinnen und dies im Management in Handlungen umzusetzen. Hierfür schlägt das MAB-Programm ein integriertes Biosphere Reserve Integrated Monitoring (BRIM) vor. Dieser Beitrag diskutiert die Ausgangslage und Anforderungen für ein integriertes Monitoring in BR und die Ergebnisse einer pilothaften Umsetzung im Biosphärenpark Salzburger Lungau & Kärntner Nockberge in Österreich. Das schlanke System aus 12 Kernindikatoren in den vier Dimensionen (Ökologie, Wirtschaft, Gesellschaft, Management) eignet sich zur Umsetzung auf BR-Ebene und kann flexibel angepasst werden. Dennoch wird klar, dass die Herausforderung im Monitoring weniger in der Entwicklung der Indikatoren als in der Operationalisierbarkeit auf der Ebene des BR liegt. Die Ergebnisse des Pilotprojektes geben hilfreiche Erkenntnisse aus der Praxis für die Entwicklung und Umsetzung integrierter Monitoringansätze in Biosphärenparks.
Concepts of material flow and mass consistency of nitrogen compounds have been used to elucidate nitrogen’s fate in an urban environment. While reactive nitrogen commonly is associated to agriculture and hence to large areas, here we have compiled scientific literature on nitrogen budget approaches in cities, following the central role cities have in anthropogenic activities generally. This included studies that specifically dealt with individual sectors as well as budgets covering all inputs and outputs to and from a city across all sectors and media. In the available data set, a clear focus on Asian cities was noted, making full use of limited information and thus enable to quantitatively describe a local pollution situation. Time series comparisons helped to identify trends, but comparison between cities was hampered by a lack of harmonized methodologies. Some standardization, or at least improved reference to relevant standardized data collection along international norms was considered helpful. Analysis of results available pointed to the following aspects that would reveal additional benchmarks for urban nitrogen budgets: analysing the share of nitrogen that is recycled or reused, separating largely independent sets of nitrogen flows specifically between food nitrogen streams and fossil fuel combustion-related flows, and estimating the stock changes for the whole domain or within individual pools.
The analysis of RubisCO genes is a highly useful instrument to explore the diversity of chemoautotrophic bacteria using the Calvin–Benson–Bassham cycle for CO2 fixation. However, because of the wide taxonomic distribution of phylogenetically related RubisCO forms, environmental studies targeting chemoautotrophs are hampered in habitats dominated by phototrophs. Here, we report the development of a gene marker that specifically detects form IA RubisCO genes in bacteria, excluding photoautotrophic representatives. The high specificity of the PCR assay was confirmed by sequence analysis of DNA obtained from the photic zone of six lakes, were chemoautotrophs are outnumbered by Cyanobacteria also using form IA RubisCO for CO2 assimilation.
Forests produce significant non-market benefits by protecting residential and commercial real estate as well as all kinds of infrastructure (e.g. rail tracks, highways, power lines) against gravitational natural hazards such as avalanches, mudslides, and rockfall. The Austrian Federal Forests (Österreichische Bundesforste–ÖBf) recently commissioned a research project on the valuation of this ecosystem service by means of the replacement cost method and the hedonic pricing approach. Based on the international literature, this paper focuses on a careful and realistic design of the baseline scenario with which the“marginal change”in ecosystem services can be assessed and valued. While the (current) management scenario is rather clear and reflects the approach pursued by the ÖBf (reasonably labeled as multifunctional forestry), the design of the baseline scenario (intensified commercial forestry) assumes a reduced protective function of the forests which, however, would still have to be in line with strict legal frameworks such as the Austrian Forest Act or European nature conservation directives. Given these strict frameworks, the potential leeway for commercial forestry is rather limited; still, the current multifunctional forest management secures ecosystem services worth up to EUR 14.7 m per year (valued at replacement costs of technical measures to substitute the protective function of forests), which corresponds to EUR 268 per hectare and year. The result of the hedonic pricing approach for property in hazard zones protected by forests is substantially lower: The ecosystem service is valued at EUR 2.9 m per year (which corresponds to an annual per-hectare value of EUR 53). The results in general underline the importance of multifunctional forestry and of the ecosystem services function sustained especially in state-owned forests.
The history of national parks in Austria, Germany and Switzerland reaches back to the late 19th century. Based on a historic content analysis (ATLAS.ti), this study investigates the different conservation concepts through the example of tourism in charismatic parks in the Alps, such as Swiss National Park, Berchtesgaden National Park and Hohe Tauern National Park. A conception is considered a particular co-occurrence of protagonists, perceived threats, desired conservation goals and instruments applied. Analysing these co-occurrences sheds light on relations between historic milestones in nature conservation and the broader context of debates, changes and developments in society. Such an analysis reveals recurring archetypical conservation narratives and, in the context of tourism, allows identifying six different conceptions to better compare and understand the developments these parks have gone through: 1) fundamental antagonism, 2) selective antagonism, 3) opportunistic co-operation, 4) opportunistic appropriation, 5) co-operative development, and 6) integrative development. The parks' histories differ greatly, but nowadays the conception of integrative development appears to be generally acknowledged.
The sustainable financing of marine protected areas is still an important issue on the conservation agenda even in European countries with strong governance and regulatory frameworks. With the example of the Lastovo Archipelago Marine Park in Croatia, this paper discusses options for funding based on visitors' willingness-to-pay to conserve marine biodiversity. The site is attractive to general tourists coming by ferries and sailors with private boats alike, which is at the same time a challenge and an opportunity for designing an efficient and effective funding scheme. The authors investigate the willingness-to-pay (WTP) of these two groups of visitors for the conservation of characteristic habitats and species based on the visualization of three different scenarios. In the statistical analysis, the authors find a significant WTP that could contribute to the long-term management and financing of the site, taking into account the perceptions and attitudes of the different groups of tourists. All in all, this study provides several conclusions for levying entry fees depending on a segmentation of tourists with respect to their preferences, behavior, socioeconomic characteristics, and alternative destinations.
Lack of accurate maps on the extent of global cropland, and particularly the spatial distribution of major crop types, hampers policy and strategic investment and could potentially impede efforts to improve food security in an environment characterized by continued market volatility and a changing climate. Here we discuss the pressing need for the provision of spatially explicit cropland datasets at a global scale and review the strengths and weaknesses of the various approaches used to develop such data.
This article provides an overview on BRIMNockberge, a research project dedicated to the development of an integrated monitoring system aimed at displaying the performance of the Carinthian part of the newly established Biosphere Reserve (BR) Salzburger Lungau & Kärntner Nockberge. Special emphasis has been placed on compactness and slenderness in this approach. Twelve indicators have been identified that are best suited to represent the social, economic and ecological development of the region, as well as the management’s performance. The whole process of developing indicators has been implemented in close collaboration and communication with local stakeholders and experts to achieve maximum public acceptance and effectiveness of the monitoring approach. A specific online database has been designed to store the collected data. It allows an easy and stringent presentation of the results. A test run was carried out within the project. Over the years, the annual collection of data will allow detecting relevant trends in the region.
By talking about socio-metabolic transitions, we focus on changes in the energetic base of socio-economic systems, leading to fundamental changes in social and environmental relations. This refers to the historical shift from a biomass-based (agrarian) economy to a fossil fuel based (industrial) economy just as much as to a future shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy carriers. The classic example for the historical transition is the United Kingdom, where the increasing use of fossil fuels over the last 250 years follows a perfectly S-shaped curve, with a declining importance of biomass over the same period. In the course of this transition, population increased seven-fold, energy and materials use per capita tripled and income rose by a factor of 19. Today the UK, as other mature industrial economies, has reached a certain metabolic saturation - which indicates that it has finished its transition into the fossil fuel based economy. In our presentation, • We will first show that this pattern of a socio-metabolic transition can be identified for most high income industrial countries: the later the transition started, the faster it proceeded. The turning point for the stabilization of metabolic rates in all of them happened in the early 1970ies. • Next, we will show that this was not just a "historical" transition, however. Currently, a substantial number of countries comprising more than half of the world's population are following a similar transitional pathway at an accelerating pace. Based on empirical data on physical resource use we can show that these so-called emerging economies are currently in the take-off or acceleration phase of the very same transition. • Finally, we will show how the currently observed global trend of increasing annual resource extraction (biomass, fossil fuels, metals and minerals) is a result of a superposition of processes in countries which are in the stabilization and in the acceleration phase of this transition process, while the next transition (away from fossil fuels) is yet barely visible. A continuation on this global pathway, by recent UNEP scenarios, would lead to a tripling of annual resource extraction by 2050. This urgently calls for a next socio-metabolic transition away from fossil fuels and away from wastefully high metabolic rates - a transition on a par with the grand transitions between socio-metabolic regimes in human history.
Research has a long tradition in the Hohe Tauern area. The spectacular high-mountain landscape of rock, ice, white water, alpine pastures and near-natural high forest has always fascinated visitors and inspired scientific investigations in those with a natural history bend. In the early days, systematic exploration centred on capturing and identifying flora and fauna in the area. Ever since the establishment of the Hohe Tauern National Park, research on anthropogenic influences and on management issues has gained importance. Today the Hohe Tauern area is an internationally recognized large protected area, the oldest national park in Austria and the largest national park, both in Austria and within the entire alpine arc (http://www.hohetauern.at). Science & research, managing natural space and education & visitor information make up the three core task blocks of a national park. Research activities here are based on the 2020 Research Programme (www.hohetauern.at/de/forschung.html), which was passed by the national park council in 2007 and covers all three federal state sections in Salzburg, Carinthia and Tyrol.
Die Vorgaben des Naturschutzes zum Rohstoffabbau können sehr unterschiedlich ausfallen. Nationale und internationale Normen bzw. Standards sind in diesem Sektor unbekannt. Mit der Entwicklung des Long-term Biodiversity Index (LBI) steht Unternehmern ein Instrument zur Verfügung; die ökologischen Leistungen zu messen und gegenüber den Behörden, der Öffentlichkeit und auch Aktionären zu kommunizieren. Der standardisierte und internationale Ansatz der Methode ermöglicht den weltweiten Einsatz und die Vergleichbarkeit der Daten. The regulations of the nature conservation agencies for mining vary a lot. National and international standards are nearly unknown. The Long-term Biodiversity Index (LBI) allows the extractive industry to assess and communicate their ecological performance to authorities, the public and shareholders. The standardised and international approach of the method offers the global implementation and comparability of data.
The European Union programme Natura 2000 aims at the creation of a network of Natura 2000 conservation areas in all EU member countries. Conservation areas are chosen on scientific evidence. Public expenditure for the realisation of the European initiative Natura 2000, in Austria, can broadly be estimated to amount to 75 million Euro (range 30 million Euro to 115 million Euro) for their establishment as one-off expenditure, while annual expenditure might amount to 10 million Euro (range 8 million Euro to 13 million Euro) for the conservation and maintenance of around 160 conservation areas. Significant positive regional economic effects such as value added and employment can be connected to such public expenditure.By the example of four selected model regions in Austria (Waldviertel, Steinfeld, Verwall, Karwendel), it can be demonstrated that the establishment of Natura 2000 conservation areas leads to at least small positive economic implications (local and regional value added, increased employment) which means that regions can benefit from the establishment of a Natura 2000 protection area. However, in single cases of land use conflicts, there might also be negative economic effects.The main regional development opportunities are in the fields of tourism as well as (to a smaller extent) in agriculture, forestry, hunting and fisheries. Such opportunities do not only depend solely on the establishment of a protected area, the realisation of a Natura 2000 site can initialize and support the regional economic development.The most essential recommendation for conservation policy is that instruments for information, compensation and financial support have to be expanded and adapted to the great importance of the Natura 2000 program and its agenda.
Written by a sociologist and a biologist, this paper attempts an interdisciplinary approach to describing the basic exchange relations between human societies and their natural environments. One type of exchange relation is termed ‘metabolism’ and related to the biological metabolism member organisms of societies require. A historical overview (part 1) demonstrates this exchange relation in terms of mass throughput per inhabitant to have grown in the course of human cultural evolution—without necessarily increasing the quality of life of those concerned—to the twentyfold it now amounts to in industrial societies (as is demonstrated empirically for Austria in part 3). A strategy of ‘contraction of physical metabolism’ (reduction of physical growth irrespective of ‘economic’ growth) of industrial societies is proposed as a strategic means of survival and possible ways to this goal are discussed quantitatively. The other exchange relation termed ‘colonization’ refers to treatments of natural environments that purposively change some components to render better exploitability (for the purpose of social metabolism), while still relying upon their basic self‐regenerating qualities. It is sketched how colonization strategies developed historically, and it is demonstrated empirically that industrial societies now use about 50% of the available plant biomass (the energetic basis of all animal life) upon their territories for human purposes (part 4). Part 5 classifies different ‘paradigms’ for judging the ‘harmfulness’ of social interventions into the environment and outlines the logic of an information system that would enable society to generate an awareness of its own interventions into nature. On the whole the paper presents a theoretical as well as an empirical attempt to view societies as physical systems (among other physical systems on this planet) and confront sociology with the paradigmatic task to analyze the social regulation of these physical processes.
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Lakeside B07, 9020, Carinthia, Austria
Head of institution
Dr. Hanns Kirchmeir
+43 463 504 144
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