IOER Annual Conference 2021: Space & Transformation

22-24 September 2021 at Deutsches Hygiene-Museum in Dresden, Germany


Human-nature-connection in urban and suburban areas

The society and nature in the Anthropocene is characterized by rapid urbanization. By 2050, 68% of the world population is expected to live in cities. These and other challenges, such as digitalization, are argued as drivers for an increasing alienation of human beings from non-human nature – both on an individual and societal level. In the context of a necessary sustainability transformation, the decoupling of humans and non-human nature is seen as a major cause of unsustainable development paths (e.g., Abson et al. 2017, Folke et al. 2011). In this regard, (re-)connecting society with nature is discussed as an important leverage point for transformative change towards sustainability (Ives et al. 2018) —especially in the urban context (Sartison & Artmann, 2020).

The identification and evaluation of effective strategies and interventions to strengthen human and non-human nature connections are the focus of practice-oriented urban ecology research (e.g., Artmann et al. 2020). Approaches such as nature-based solutions, green infrastructure, biodiversity strategies or natural experiential sites promote environmentally sustainable urban development (Grunewald et al. 2017, Hersperger et al. 2020, Mathey et al. 2018). By interlinking urban ecology and sustainability transformation research, experimental research designs (e.g. real-world laboratories) can test innovative interventions for (re)connecting humans with non-human nature and thus make a valuable contribution to the sustainability transformation of cities and regions.

This conference track will reflect and discuss potentials of urban ecology research and related disciplines as well as practice-oriented interventions to promote human-nature relationships in the context of sustainability transformation of cities and regions. Contributions should focus on the following aspects, among others:

  1. What types of relationships between urban/suburban non-human nature and urban society can be found and how can these be assessed (e.g., by using concepts such as relational values of ecosystem services)?
  2. What impacts do (sub-)urban human-nature-connections have in terms of tackling societal challenges (e.g., sustainable consumption, nature conservation)?
  3. Which strategies and measures are effective to strengthen human-nature connections in urban/suburban areas as a lever for transformative change towards sustainability?
  4. Which spatial implications of different strategies and concepts for strengthening human-nature-connection in urban/suburban areas can be identified?
  5. How can concepts in the field of urban ecology (e.g., nature-based solutions, ecosystem services) and theories and models of sustainability transformation (e.g., multi-level perspective - MLP) be combined to learn about human-nature connections for transformative change towards sustainability?

Abson, D.J., Fischer, J., Leventon, J., Newig, J., Schomerus, T., Vilsmaier, U., von Wehrden, H., Abernethy, P., Ives, C.D., Jager, N.W., Lang, D.J., 2017. Leverage points for sustainability transformation. Ambio 46, 30–39.

Artmann, M., Sartison, K., Vávra, J., 2020. The role of edible cities supporting sustainability transformation – A conceptual multi-dimensional framework tested on a case study in Germany. Journal of Cleaner Production 255, 120220.

Folke, C., Jansson, Å., Rockström, J., Olsson, P., Carpenter, S.R., Chapin, F.S., Crépin, A.-S., Daily, G., Danell, K., Ebbesson, J., Elmqvist, T., Galaz, V., Moberg, F., Nilsson, M., Österblom, H., Ostrom, E., Persson, Å., Peterson, G., Polasky, S., Steffen, W., Walker, B., Westley, F., 2011. Reconnecting to the Biosphere. AMBIO 40, 719.

Grunewald, K., Syrbe, R.-U., Walz, U., Richter, B., Meinel, G., Herold, H., Marzelli, S., 2017. Germany’s Ecosystem Services – State of the Indicator Development for a Nationwide Assessment and Monitoring. OE 2, e14021.

Hersperger, A.M., Bürgi, M., Wende, W., Bacău, S., Grădinaru, S.R., 2020. Does landscape play a role in strategic spatial planning of European urban regions? Landscape and Urban Planning 194, 103702.

Ives, C.D., Abson, D.J., von Wehrden, H., Dorninger, C., Klaniecki, K., Fischer, J., 2018. Reconnecting with nature for sustainability. Sustainability Science 13, 1389–1397.

Mathey, J., Arndt, T., Banse, J., Rink, D. 2018. Public perception of spontaneous vegetation on brownfields in urban areas – results from surveys in Dresden and Leipzig (Germany). Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 29, 384–392.

Sartison, K., Artmann, M. 2020. Edible cities – An innovative nature-based solution for urban sustainability transformation? An explorative study of urban food production in German cities. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 49 (2020) 126604, 1–9.

Transformative capacity, transition governance and spatial planning

Sustainability transformations are characterised by deep societal changes and long-term processes that are associated with a high degree of complexity and uncertainty (Elzen et al. 2004, Folke et al. 2010). Although strategic planning addresses long-term and complex processes, it is confronted with the tension between control and contingency, navigating open and emergent processes of societal change. The claim to support and accelerate sustainability transformations places new demands on governance approaches and planning instruments and requires the development of transformative capacities - especially in cities and regions (Wolfram 2016).

Both socio-technical perspectives on sustainability transitions and socio ecological perspective on transformation processes provide valuable insights and concepts on how to govern transformative change. In the inter- and transdisciplinary field of sustainability transitions research, new governance approaches are introduced with newly emerging perspectives on systemic transition processes (e.g. transition governance, Loorbach 2017). The mutual influence of different actors and forms of interaction on the institutional and structural conditions of sustainability transformations and its dynamics as a whole are at the centre of research interests (Ehnert et al. 2018). Transition management as a transdisciplinary governance approach focuses on solutions for complex real-world problems and the co-production of knowledge (Loorbach 2010). Novel participatory processes and collaborative instruments are to open up transformative change, among other things by developing visions, pathways and experiments (von Wirth 2018) as well as by scaling sustainable alternatives (Augenstein et al. 2020). Research approaches that, in addition to generating knowledge, also actively contribute to change are gaining in importance (Schneidewind & Singer-Brodowski 2013, Fazey et al 2020). Governance frameworks informed by socio-ecological research emphasise different aspects and categories, e. g. the concept of stewardship (e.g. Bennet et al. 2018) which is based on aspects of care, knowledge and agency of individuals, communities, organizations and governments, among others.

These recent advances in transformation research raise new issues for both theory and practice of spatial planning. On the one hand, spatial planning is predestined to adopt a systemic perspective and to help shape transformation processes due to its interdisciplinarity and expertise in participation and collaboration processes. On the other, it is bound to existing structures due its embedding in political-administrative institutions (Wolfram 2018). This conference track will discuss the potentials and limits of spatial planning approaches as well as their interfaces and lines of conflict with transformation-oriented governance approaches. Contributions should focus on the following aspects, among others:

  1. Which fundamental lines of conflict exist between current planning paradigms, systems, cultures and instruments, and the objective of orchestrating sustainability transformations?
  2. Which established formal and informal planning instruments (e.g. of urban regeneration) enable or hinder sustainability transformations through their space, time, actors or other perspectives, and by what means?
  3. What role do different actors play in transformation processes, and how can spatial planning develop potentials for transformative change through participation and empowerment?
  4. What role do different scales (neighbourhood, district, city, city region etc.) and their interactions in a context of multi-level governance play?
  5. What role can and should transdisciplinary and transformative research approaches with their instruments (e.g. real-world laboratories) play in spatial planning, and what do they imply for future developments of the field and planning practice?
  6. What are the requirements for spatial planning and governance approaches if they are to initiate, support and accelerate sustainability transformations?

Augenstein, Karoline; Bachmann, Boris; Egermann, Markus; Hermelingmeier, Verena; Hilger, Annaliesa; Jaeger-Erben, Melanie; Kessler, Alexandra; Lam, David P.M.; Palzkill, Alexandra; Suski, Paul; von Wirth, Timo, 2020. From niche to mainstream: the dilemmas of scaling up sustainable alternatives. In: GAIA - Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society 29 (2020) 3, S.143-147.

Bennett, N. J., Whitty, T. S., Finkbeiner, E., Pittman, J., Bassett, H., Gelcich, S., & Allison, E. H. (2018). Environmental Stewardship: A Conceptual Review and Analytical Framework. Environmental management, 61(4), 597–614.

Ehnert, F., Frantzeskaki, N., Barnes, J., Borgström, S., Gorissen, L., Kern, F., Strenchock, L., Egermann, M., 2018. The Acceleration of Urban Sustainability Transitions: A Comparison of Brighton, Budapest, Dresden, Genk, and Stockholm. Sustainability 10, 612.

Elzen, B., Geels, F.W., Green, K., 2004. System innovation and the transition to sustainability: theory, evidence and policy. Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham.

Fazey, Ioan; ...; Egermann, Markus; ... 2020. Transforming knowledge systems for life on Earth: Visions of future systems and how to get there. In: Energy Research & Social Science 70 (2020) 101724, S.1-18.

Folke, C., Carpenter, S.R., Walker, B., Scheffer, M., Chapin, T., Rockström, J., 2010. Resilience Thinking: Integrating Resilience, Adaptability and Transformability. . Ecology & Society 15, 1–9.

Loorbach, D., 2010. Transition Management for Sustainable Development: A Prescriptive, Complexity-Based Governance Framework. Governance 23, 161–183.

Loorbach, D., Frantzeskaki, N., Avelino, F., 2017. Sustainability Transitions Research: Transforming Science and Practice for Societal Change. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 42, 599–626.

Schneidewind, U., Singer-Brodowski, M., 2013. Transformative Wissenschaft: Klimawandel im deutschen Wissenschafts- und Hochschulsystem. Metropolis-Verl, Marburg.

von Wirth, Timo; Lea Fuenfschilling, Niki Frantzeskaki & Lars Coenen; 2019. Impacts of urban living labs on sustainability transitions: mechanisms and strategies for systemic change through experimentation, European Planning Studies, 27:2, 229-257, DOI:10.1080/09654313.2018.1504895

Wolfram, M., 2018. Urban planning and transition management: Rationalities, instruments and dialectics, in: Frantzeskaki, N., Bach, M., Hölscher, K., Avelino, F. (Eds.), Co-Creating Sustainable Urban Futures. Springer, New York, pp. 103–125.

Wolfram, M., 2016. Conceptualizing urban transformative capacity: A framework for research and policy. Cities 51, 121–130.

Metabolisms and circularity in cities and regions

At present, the dominant socio-economic systems are largely based on linear resource flows and intensive use of natural resources and land. A transformation to more circular and local economic interactions promises a reduction in resource consumption as well as less emissions and waste (Zhang et al. 2020). Such a transformation is associated with a fundamental change in structures, cultures and practices (Hobson and Lynch, 2016). It offers solutions for the effective and long-term use of buildings and land, for the development of reusable, local and regional products (Vanhamäki et al. 2020), for the appreciation of demolition debris as a source of raw materials substituting virgin material extraction, and for the handling of hazardous substances that must be removed from the material cycles (Lopez Ruiz et al. 2020).

Nevertheless, a change to circular systems still faces many barriers. A central challenge, for example, is the complex configuration and multiple linkages between production and consumption at various levels of consideration (Köhler et al. 2019). Various studies (e.g. from urban and social metabolism research, resource economics) already provide basic information on the quantities and qualities of information and material flows and their interactions in space using different methods (e.g. material flow analysis, multisectoral modelling) (Schiller et al. 2017 a, b, Korzhenevych 2016).

Local and regional economic cycles have become an important field of action in urban and regional development (e.g. the "original regional" initiative of the Nuremberg Metropolitan Region). Linkages between rural supply and urban demand gain attention especially with regard to a comprehensive understanding of resource efficiency (e.g. Schiller et al. 2020). Many civil society initiatives are already testing transformative forms of local economy on a smaller scale (cf. e.g. the Nascent project in the food sector). However, the road to circularity and spatiality (e.g. in the construction sector among others) as the dominant mode of production, consumption, supply of raw materials and removal of pollutants still seems a long way off. An important aspect here is also the transferability of management approaches between the Global North and South (Schröder et al. 2020). Therefore, contributions to this section should focus on the following aspects, among others:

  1. What are the fundamental challenges of a change from linear and global to circular and local systems of production and consumption?
  2. What changed values, norms, roles of actors and business models are associated with circular systems, and how can these be taken up by urban and regional development and planning?
  3. How can circular systems be observed and mapped?
  4. What possibilities do urban-regional governance approaches (e.g. metropolitan regions) in particular offer for strengthening circular systems and what are the potentials and limits of formal and informal instruments of urban and regional development with regard to promoting transformative change towards circular systems?
  5. How can such circular approaches be scaled up and spatially distributed?
  6. What specific challenges exist in the field of "built environment" and the related material flows and material cycles?

Hobson, K., Lynch, N., 2016. Diversifying and de-growing the circular economy: Radical social transformation in a resource-scarce world. Futures 82, 15–25.

Köhler, J., Geels, F.W., Kern, F., Markard, J., Onsongo, E., Wieczorek, A., Alkemade, F., Avelino, F., Bergek, A., Boons, F., Fünfschilling, L., Hess, D., Holtz, G., Hyysalo, S., Jenkins, K., Kivimaa, P., Martiskainen, M., McMeekin, A., Mühlemeier, M.S., Nykvist, B., Pel, B., Raven, R., Rohracher, H., Sandén, B., Schot, J., Sovacool, B., Turnheim, B., Welch, D., Wells, P., 2019. An agenda for sustainability transitions research: State of the art and future directions. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 31, 1–32.

Korzhenevych, A., 2016. Computable General Equilibrium Models: Historical Background and Basic Structure. pp. 3–29.

López Ruiz, L.A., Roca Ramón, X., Gassó Domingo, S., 2020. The circular economy in the construction and demolition waste sector – A review and an integrative model approach. Journal of Cleaner Production 248, 119238.

Schiller, G., Bimesmeier, T., Pham, A.T.V., 2020. Method for Quantifying Supply and Demand of Construction Minerals in Urban Regions—A Case Study of Hanoi and Its Hinterland. Sustainability 12, 4358.

Schiller, G.; Müller, F.; Ortlepp, R. 2017. Mapping the anthropogenic stock in Germany: Metabolic evidence for a circular economy. In: Resources, Conservation and Recycling 123 (2017), S. 93-107.

Schiller, G., Gruhler, K., Ortlepp, R., 2017b. Quantification of anthropogenic metabolism using spatially differentiated continuous MFA. Change and Adaptation in Socio-Ecological Systems 3.

Zhang, N.; Zhang, H.; Schiller, G.; Feng, H.; Gao, X.; Li, E.; Li, X. 2020. Unraveling the GWP mitigation potential from recycling subway-related excavated soil and rock in China via life cycle assessment. In: Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management (Online First), S.1-25.

Schröder, P., Anantharaman, M., Anggraeni, K. (Eds.), 2019. The circular economy and the global south: sustainable lifestyles and green industrial development, Pathways to sustainability series. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, New York, NY.

Vanhamäki, S., Virtanen, M., Luste, S., Manskinen, K., 2020. Transition towards a circular economy at a regional level: A case study on closing biological loops. Resources, Conservation and Recycling 156, 104716.

Spatial visualization and modeling of transformations

The development of indicators and models for the observation and (quantitative) description of transformative change represents a central methodological challenge for transformation research (Köhler et al. 2019). In particular, modelling approaches require data and indicators that enable a structured approach to the complexity of systemic change (Holtz et al. 2015).

The suitability and usability of indicators and models for shaping sustainability transformations is determined by their spatial and temporal dimensions as well as by the process of their development. In the context of the global human-ecological crisis, spatial data and indicators already provide an important building block for spatially and temporally high-resolution analyses in dealing with risks and natural hazards (Neubert et al. 2020, 2016, Schinke et al. 2012), but are primarily developed and used by experts. In urban and regional development, they also represent an essential basis for the development of scenarios for exploring uncertain futures, whereby participatory methods are also used (Kahila-Tani et al. 2019). However, transdisciplinary research approaches in particular offer the possibility to integrate heterogeneous spatial knowledge stocks and to open them up to sustainability assessment through geocomputing and to provide new relevance for action. Insights into the selection, processing and provision of spatial data, as well as approaches to their analysis, visualization and modeling, thus represent a necessary and promising support for the reflection of multidimensional, complex transformation processes (Behnisch et al. 2019, Jehling et al. 2018, Krüger et al. 2013, Klosterman et al. 2018, Richter & Behnisch 2019). Contributions in this track should therefore focus on the following aspects, among others:

  1. Which data, indicators and models are feasible with regard to their implementation to sustainability transformations of cities and regions and of what significance are Spatial Data Science approaches (Describe, Discover, Predict, and Advise) and in particular Geosimulation approaches in the era of Big Data, in this context?
  2. Which technologies and methods provide efficient and effective approaches to process spatial data and reflect on transformation processes?
  3. How can the usability and effectiveness of data and indicators in transformation processes be increased and evaluated?
  4. What role do transdisciplinary approaches play in collecting and evaluating spatial data on transformation processes?
  5. What forms of visualization of and interaction with spatial data and indicators on transformation processes already exist and are necessary?
  6. >To what extent can visualizations of indicators (e.g. in maps) serve as "boundary objects" in order to increase the ability to communicate and act in inter- and transdisciplinary teams with regard to transformation processes?

Parallel to the Open Call of the IOER Annual Conference, there is the opportunity to submit contributions for the Special Issue "Data-Driven Approaches to Enable Urban Transformation". You can submit empirical papers, systematic or policy/practice reviews, theoretical or methodological reflections as well as perspectives. Please note that each manuscript must go through an independent editorial process, peer review, publication standards and approval of Frontiers' (publisher) Gold Open Access Policy.
Follow detail call:

Behnisch, M., Schorcht, M., Kriewald, S., Rybski, D., 2019. Settlement percolation: A study of building connectivity and poles of inaccessibility. Landscape and Urban Planning 191, 103631.

Holtz, G., Alkemade, F., de Haan, F., Köhler, J., Trutnevyte, E., Luthe, T., Halbe, J., Papachristos, G., Chappin, E., Kwakkel, J., Ruutu, S., 2015. Prospects of modelling societal transitions: Position paper of an emerging community. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 17, 41–58.

Jehling, M., Hecht, R., Herold, H., 2018. Assessing urban containment policies within a suburban context—An approach to enable a regional perspective. Land Use Policy 77, 846–858.

Kahila-Tani, M., Kytta, M., Geertman, S., 2019. Does mapping improve public participation? Exploring the pros and cons of using public participation GIS in urban planning practices. Landscape and Urban Planning 186, 45–55.

Klosterman, R.E., Brooks, K., Drucker, J., 2018. Planning support methods: urban and regional analysis and projection. Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham Boulder New York London.

Köhler, J., Geels, F.W., Kern, F., Markard, J., Onsongo, E., Wieczorek, A., Alkemade, F., Avelino, F., Bergek, A., Boons, F., Fünfschilling, L., Hess, D., Holtz, G., Hyysalo, S., Jenkins, K., Kivimaa, P., Martiskainen, M., McMeekin, A., Mühlemeier, M.S., Nykvist, B., Pel, B., Raven, R., Rohracher, H., Sandén, B., Schot, J., Sovacool, B., Turnheim, B., Welch, D., Wells, P., 2019. An agenda for sustainability transitions research: State of the art and future directions. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 31, 1–32.

Krüger, T., Meinel, G., Schumacher, U., 2013. Land-use monitoring by topographic data analysis. Cartography and Geographic Information Science 40, 220–228.

Neubert, M., Höhnel, J., Schinke, R., 2020. GIS-based Estimation of Flood Damage to Arable Crops. AGIT ‒ Journal für Angewandte Geoinformatik 6-2020, 183–194.
Neubert, M., Naumann, T., Hennersdorf, J., Nikolowski, J., 2016. The Geographic Information System-based flood damage simulation model HOWAD: GIS-based flood damage simulation model. J. Flood Risk Manage 9, 36–49.

Richter, B., Behnisch, M., 2019. Integrated evaluation framework for environmental planning in the context of compact green cities. Ecological Indicators 96, 38–53.

Schinke, R., Neubert, M., Hennersdorf, J., Stodolny, U., Sommer, T., Naumann, T., 2012. Damage estimation of subterranean building constructions due to groundwater inundation – the GIS-based model approach GRUWAD. Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci. 12, 2865–2877.

Open Track

Contributions to the general conference theme "Space & Transformation" that cannot be related to the four other thematic tracks are also welcome.

The Open Track offers, for example, space for the discussion of cross-cutting issues or novel approaches and methods of spatial transformation research.


The form for submission of contributions is closed.
Due to the large number of submissions we need more time for the review and will inform you until 12.05., latest.