Die Bodenkultur - Journal for Land Management, Food and Environment

H. Haberl:

Interdisciplinary perspectives on soil protection in a sustainability context: Using the material and energy flow (MEFA) approach in studying land use


The pattern of production and consumption in industrial societies is unstable and cannot be generalised across the whole world. A transition towards sustainability will require changes of a proportion similar to the industrial revolution, i. e. the transition from agrarian society to the present pattern. Sustainability is here conceptualised as an attribute of socio-ecological systems, i. e. of systems that emerge through the interaction of socioeconomic and ecological processes. Sustainability science thus requires inter- and transdisciplinary cooperation and, therefore, needs approaches that bridge the gaps between disciplines, between local and global scales, and between integration of user needs and scientific excellence. The paper discusses the potential usefulness of the material and energy flow (MEFA) approach to quantify socioeconomic metabolism and the colonization of nature (e. g., land use), thus helping to bridge gaps between social sciences, including economics, and natural sciences, such as soil science. Using Austria 1830–2000 as an example it demonstrates how changes in resource utilization and technology resulted in fundamental changes in land use and thus of impacts on soil.

Key words: Colonization of nature, land use, socioeconomic metabolism, soil science, sustainability.