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Global Change

 
Global Change is one of the great challenges of our time and, as a complex-set of processes, includes both social and environmental dimensions. As such, Global Change can be subdivided into sub-areas of scientific inquiry, such as population development, biodiversity change, urbanization, climate change, landscape degradation, etc. - processes that are characterized by the exercise of power, the availability of capital, resource conflicts and critical human-environment conditions.
 
At the University of Freiburg’s geography department, Global Change is understood as a comprehensive, integrative research topic that intersects physical and human geography. For this reason, our researchers study Global Change from a range of theoretical and methodological perspectives.
 
Our content focus is on climate change and its social contextualization, in particular with regard to climate change vulnerability and adaptation. These research topics are conceptualized as comprehensive socio-ecological processes that require a nuanced understanding of scale-sensitive, transdisciplinary human-environment research, including regional studies. Geography researchers at Freiburg explore the social dimensions and political negotiation processes related to global change in the context of other global trends, such as urbanization, demographic change, social inequality and economic and geopolitical transformations.
 

Research Interests related to Global Change


  • Local capacity development for climate change adaptation in small and medium-sized municipalities and districts
    Project Manager
    Fünfgeld H, Lorenz S (Team)
    Start/End of Project
    01.01.2020 until 31.12.2022
    Description
    Municipalities and districts (“Landkreise”) in Baden-Württemberg are increasingly affected by the impacts of climate change. Severe damage caused by heavy rain, floods, heat waves and droughts, such as those in 2018, testify to this development and the increasing relevance of climate change adaptation. While climate change adaptation is increasingly integrated into administrative structures and processes in large cities, small and medium-sized municipalities usually do not have the necessary capacity or resources to tackle the effects of climate change with strategically-oriented, yet at the same time efficient adaptation planning and decision-making processes. The aim of the project is to support municipal institutions and actors in the planning and implementation of locally-specific adaptation processes. For this purpose, practical instruments for tangible development and expansion of competencies and capacities for adaptation to climate change will be developed, specifically focusing on the needs of small and medium-sized municipalities and districts in the state of Baden-Württemberg. In this way, municipal institutions and actors will be supported and enabled in the planning and implementation of local-specific adaptation processes – especially those operating in a small and medium sized municipal context.
    Contact Person
    Stefanie Lorenz
    Phone: +49(0)177 158-4913
    Email: stefanie.lorenz@geographie.uni-freiburg.de
    Financing
    Deutsche Anpassungsstrategie (DAS) über das BMU, Beteiligte Projektpartner (Kommunen und Landkreise)
  • Geographies of resettlement in the context of multi-scale global environmental change and degradation processes – a case study of coastal resettlement in the Volta River Delta in Ghana
    Project Manager
    Fünfgeld H, Neu F (Team)
    Start/End of Project
    01.12.2019 until 30.11.2022
    Description
    During the last five decades, state-led resettlement has accompanied many construction projects of dams – especially in the Global South – and has been framed as a side effect that needs to be accepted in order to foster development (see Rogers/Wilmsen 2019). However, resettlement is nowadays increasingly taking place in response to extreme weather events that become more frequent and intense, also due to climate change (see e.g. Arnall 2014). On a global level, low-lying coastal regions which often have a high population density and are threatened by flooding and coastal erosion due to global sea level rise are particularly vulnerable. For instance, in some areas of the Volta River Delta in southeast Ghana, the coastline has been shifted inland by up to three kilometers, an incremental process that was triggered by a combination of rising sea levels and sediments of the Volta River being retained by the Akosombo Dam. As a result, entire villages literally were swallowed by the erosion processes of the Atlantic Ocean. For this reason, from 2017 onwards, state institutions set up a resettlement village for several hundreds of affected households on a piece of reclaimed land in the lagoon of Keta, east of the mouth of the Volta River. Unsatisfyingly, resettlement so far has been scientifically examined mostly in the context of dam projects and not so much against the background of climate change. In addition, those studies often aimed at optimizing the resettlement process without questioning resettlement and the logics behind in the first place. Thence, Rogers and Wilmsen (2019) called for a critical geography of resettlement, i.e. studies in the field of geography that critically and profoundly examine resettlement projects. The research project will make a contribution to this new field of research and therefore analyzes the Ghanaian example described above as part of a case study. Abstracted from the case study, it deals with geographies of resettlement in the context of multi-scale processes of environmental change and degradation, which are examined from the standpoint of political ecology. The corresponding analytical framework is based on theories of power (e.g. Foucault), violence (e.g. Watts, Nixon) and justice (e.g. Rawls, Sen). The research project focuses on three key elements within the resettlement processes: actors, power and interests. Buildung on this, three research questions are pursued: 1) How did different actors use their respective power to shape the resettlement process in a way that serves their own or others’ interests? 2) How was resettlement legitimized and by whom? 3) Which social, political and economic effects on resettled people can be identified and to what extent can they be linked to certain resettlement practices applied? As part of the research project, several phases of field research are be necessary to collect primary data in the Volta River Delta. The methodological toolbox used during these stages contains qualitative and ethnographic research methods of geography.
    Contact Person
    Friedrich Neu
    Phone: +49(0)761 203-54233
    Email: friedrich.neu@geographie.uni-freiburg.de
    Financing
    DAAD (Feldforschung)
  • Geomorphic and hydrologic implications of permafrost degradation in the Alps (GeoHype)
    Project Manager
    Blöthe J, Kraushaar S
    Start/End of Project
    01.06.2018 until 01.06.2020
    Description
    High-mountain environments are highly sensitive towards a warming climate, which is dramatically reflected by the shrinkage of alpine glaciers. With more and more glaciers disappearing, attention has moved towards the hydrological importance of ice stored in the periglacial environment, projected to exceed glacier ice volume in the European Alps by the mid-21st century. However, surprisingly little is known about the current state of the ice stored in the periglacial zones of alpine landscapes. Our project aims to disentangle the contribution of active layer and permafrost body to the summer runoff from the upper Kaiserberg catchment in the Austrian Alps. To achieve this goal, we combine repeated electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) surveys on the Kaiserberg rock glacier with continuous discharge measurements from two hydrological stations that we installed in the basin. We further collect water samples over the course of the summer that are analysed for δ18O and δ2H isotopes and the radio nuclide 129I , that allow us to differentiate thawing permafrost from active-layer or precipitation derived discharge.
    Financing
    Dr. Hohmann Förderung der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde zu Köln; Hanna Bremer Stiftung
    Publications
    Journal Articles
  • Suspended sediment transport in German lowland rivers (in cooperation with BFG)
    Project Manager
    Hoffmann Th, Blöthe J
    Start/End of Project
    since 01.10.2017 (unlimited)
    Description
    Suspended sediment load dominates the sediment export from most lowland rivers around the world, also constituting a significant transport medium for pollutants and contaminants. This has important implications for the management of river systems that aims at achieving a good ecological and chemical status, as required for instance by the European Water Frame directive. A thorough understanding of the sources, transport mechanisms and sinks of suspended sediment is therefore a crucial prerequisite for successful management. However, sources and sinks of suspended sediment and the resulting concentration in the river water are highly variable throughout the year and in between years. In this project, we are interested in the spatiotemporal variability of suspended sediment transport in major German lowland rivers. In a first publication, we find that distinct breaks in the scaling relationship between suspended sediment concentration and discharge are induced by the organic matter concentration
    Contact Person
    Hoffmann Th
    Publications
    Journal Articles
    • Hoffmann T O, Baulig Y, Fischer H, Blöthe J H: Scale-breaks of suspended sediment rating in large rivers in Germany induced by organic matter Earth Surface Dynamics, 2020: https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2020-3