Climate changed caused by humans is one of the greatest challenges in today’s world. Research at the institute focuses on the causes and effects of climate change on the environment, in particular the terrestrial hydrosphere, the biosphere and humans. This involves large-scale studies at ecosystem level as well as regional and urban climate analyses. Furthermore, research-based ways of sensitising the population to the implications of climate change are developed.
ENVIRONMENTAL AND LAND-USE CHANGE
Apart from the climate, human activities also change our environment to a large degree, whereby the change in flora and vegetation, land use and land management are of particular importance. Various research projects at the institute are concerned with changes in land use and management and their effects on water and material flows, biogeochemical cycles and the climate. Other focal areas include palaeoecological reconstructions, biodiversity research, urban ecology and nature conserviation. Regional focuses include, among other areas, Central Europe, the Alps, southern India, Iran and Central Africa.
Globalisation processes, shifts in political power, changing exchange relationships and technological innovations lead to accelerated social transformations and have a decisive influence on the diverse interactions between individuals, societies and the environment. These dynamics of human-environment relationships are examined with the focus on transformations in the Global South. These issues are also addressed as part of analyses of site and local development as well as of cultural landscape dynamics.
ENVIRONMENT AND HEALTH
The constant degradation of our environment poses an enormous challenge for our modern society. In the main areas of research at the institute in which these challenges are the starting points we analyse, for example, the current pollen count as well as relationships between emissions and air quality in urban spaces, as well as the propagation of microplastic particles and the spread of emerging infectious diseases facilitated by climate change.
WATER AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
Natural resources form the foundation of human life. Apart from examining the management and use of resources, issues concerning the concept, perception and commodification of resources as well as resource conflicts are also dealt with. Various research groups focus, in particular, on water and soil resources (…) as well as competition for resource use resulting from the development of renewable energy.
Mobility of humans, goods and data shapes life in the 21st century decisively. Mobility – in its different manifestations – is not only a driver but also a result of globalisation and, in our increasingly digitalised society, it can generate opportunities, although it can also increasingly create inequalities. Using a range of methods, extending from qualitative field investigations to sensor-based analysis and agent-based simulation through to innovative visualisations, we keep track of the causes and consequences of environmental migrations, information extraction from mobility data and the understanding of human navigation. The aim is to achieve an understanding and to retrace mobility in local, regional and national contexts.
GEOGRAPHICAL EDUCATION AND COMMUNICATION
Geographical education has a high social relevance, as phenomena and processes such as globalisation, climate change, migration or resource conflicts require actions that are grounded in facts. Yet how can such complex geospatial topics be opened up for academic and non-academic educational processes? And how can teaching staff be qualified for this in the best possible way? By systematically linking theory, empiricism and professional practice, the institute generates fundamental approaches for geographical education processes, the professionalisation of teaching staff and scientific communication.