Lab

Henrik von Wehrden's Lab

About the lab

The research agenda of the Quantitative Methods of Sustainability Science Group revolves around the central theme of development, transfer and application of quantitative methods to sustainability-related problems with the aim of creating novel knowledge and solutions. Our group comprises a wide array of disciplinary backgrounds ranging from the natural to the social sciences, including biology, ecology, economics, environmental science, geography, human ecology, psychology and physics. What unites us is our belief in the idea that disciplinary knowledge is helpful, yet an interaction of disciplines can create new pathways.

Featured projects (1)

Project
The aim of the Sustainability Methods Wiki is to present and explain diverse scientific methods, terms and tools relevant to (Sustainability) Science and discuss underlying questions. It shall serve as a resource for students, researchers, teachers and any interested readers and tries to bridge the gap on how we approximate empirical knowledge, and how we ought to act based on this. Through an inclusive, reflexive and critical approach to the methodological canons, we try to contribute to solve the disciplinary slumber that defines much of modern science.

Featured research (6)

The concept of resilience gained increased attention in sustainability science, with a notable spike from 2014 onwards. However, resilience is a multifaceted concept with no unanimous definition, making applications in the context of sustainability, a similarly multifarious term, a challenge. Here, we examine the use of resilience in well-cited sustainability literature in the period from 2014 to 2018. Based on our analysis, resilience as a concept proves its analytical strength through a diverse set of frameworks, indicators, and models, while its usefulness as boundary object is less clear. Most of the examined publications do not cite one of the well-established resilience definitions as a conceptual basis. The normativity of resilience is often implicit and rarely critically questioned, and strong participatory approaches are lacking. A multivariate statistical full-text bibliographic analysis of 112 publications reveals four distinct research clusters with partial conceptual proximity but hardly any overlap. While the majority of publications consider human well-being as an integral factor in their research, some research marginalizes this concept. Resilience to climate change dominates the discourse in the literature investigated, which signifies a need to broaden research efforts to other equally pressing-but in terms of the concept, widely neglected-sustainability challenges.
Ecologically unequal exchange theory posits asymmetric net flows of biophysical resources from poorer to richer countries. To date, empirical evidence to support this theoretical notion as a systemic aspect of the global economy is largely lacking. Through environmentally-extended multi-regional input-output modelling, we provide empirical evidence for ecologically unequal exchange as a persistent feature of the global economy from 1990 to 2015. We identify the regions of origin and final consumption for four resource groups: materials, energy, land, and labor. By comparing the monetary exchange value of resources embodied in trade, we find significant international disparities in how resource provision is compensated. Value added per ton of raw material embodied in exports is 11 times higher in high-income countries than in those with the lowest income, and 28 times higher per unit of embodied labor. With the exception of embodied land for China and India, all other world regions serve as net exporters of all types of embodied resources to high-income countries across the 1990-2015 time period. On aggregate, ecologically unequal exchange allows high-income countries to simultaneously appropriate resources and to generate a monetary surplus through international trade. This has far-reaching implications for global sustainability and for the economic growth prospects of nations.
This systematic review provides an overview of the various perspectives that investigate alternative trade arrangements in the global food sector. With child labor in cocoa production, health issues of plantation workers in the global south and unsustainable consumption patterns of consumers in the global north, trade arrangements in the global food sector remain on largely unsustainable pathways with vast consequences for a sustainable development. Alternative Trade arrangements have been proposed as one way to tackle the above-mentioned issues and have been increasingly investigated through the scientific literature. However, evidence about the impact of alternative trade arrangements on consumption in the global north or production in the global south is disputed. While there have been efforts to review the scientific literature, existing reviews have focused only on specific aspects (e.g. consumer perception or effectiveness of producer certification schemes). We therefore systematically reviewed 649 peer-reviewed publications that investigated food products and alternative trade arrangements to create a more comprehensive overview of the strand of literature, its epistemic similarities and differences. We found that the scientific literature is predominantly investigating the certified market, focusing on certification schemes and its implementations. Furthermore, we show that the literature is either focusing on producers or consumers and has a strong bias towards social aspects of sustainability. Using a quantitative word-based analysis, we identified three substantially different clusters: first, producer impact assessment, dominated by econometrics; second, contextual producer perspectives, emphasizing the political and social sphere through qualitative single case study analyses; and third consumers' attitudes and willingness to pay for ethical products, characterized by psychological and econometric measures. Based on our findings we propose three future directions for research in the field of alternative trade. First, scholars should put a stronger emphasis on going beyond the impact assessment of certification schemes and examine underlying aspects such as information asymmetries, smallholder empowerment and ethical consumption behavior. Second, interconnections between social and ecological factors needs further investigation as both factors have a strong influence on each other. Third, scholars should put a stronger focus on participatory approaches to gain a deeper understanding of root causes of unjust trade arrangements and enhance mutual understanding of scientific perceptions and realworld practices.

Lab head

Henrik von Wehrden
Department
  • Faculty of Sustainability & Center for Methods
About Henrik von Wehrden
  • I have a strong methodological focus, with a disciplinary research background in community ecology, biodiversity and conservation biology. My work focusses on sustainability, which I define as a basis for a just present and future. I believe that we can only steer the planet towards a sustainable and resilient future by linking multiple disciplines through (pro-)active research, creating mutual learning in exchange with stakeholders and civil society.

Members (22)

Christian Borgemeister
  • University of Bonn
David J Abson
  • Leuphana University Lüneburg
Denise Margaret Matias
  • Hochschule für nachhaltige Entwicklung Eberswalde
John-Oliver Engler
  • Universität Vechta
Christian Dorninger
  • University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna
Philip Bernert
  • Leuphana University Lüneburg
Fabienne Gralla
  • Leuphana University Lüneburg
Robert Feller
  • University of Aberdeen
John-Oliver Engler
John-Oliver Engler
  • Not confirmed yet
Ruth Krüger
Ruth Krüger
  • Not confirmed yet
Shona Jenkins
Shona Jenkins
  • Not confirmed yet
Sanne Raggers
Sanne Raggers
  • Not confirmed yet
Lisa Habigt
Lisa Habigt
  • Not confirmed yet

Alumni (1)

Anna-Lena Rau
  • Leuphana University Lüneburg