Last updated 08.10.2008 by Dagmar Schröter.

Recent Teaching



Seminar: Vulnerability of the Human Enviornment System to Global Change

(Vulnerabilität des Mensch-Umwelt-Systems gegenüber dem Globalen Wandel)

Seminar for advanced students of geoecology and biology at the Potsdam Universität, Germany. Summer semester 2004.
Wednesday 15:00-16:30 h, Golm, Haus 5, Raum 1.10.

Dagmar Schröter & Wolfgang Cramer

Objective of the Seminar | Seminar Topics | Top of the page

Objective of the Seminar
The planned seminar deals with the vulnerability of coupled human-enviornment systems to global change. At the beginning we will give a thorough introduction to the topic. We will then ask students to prepare seminars on topics related to vulnerability research (see suggestions below). We will provide appropriate background material and will guide and support students to read and understand seminal papers recently published in this growing field of interdisciplinary research. Students are encouraged to present their own thoughts. They are also free to base their presentations on additional material of their choosing. We will specifically deal with the following issues:
  • the driving forces and processes of environmental changes in Europe;
  • the evaluation of ecosystem services provided to society;
  • a discussion what a vulnerability assessment, should include, e.g. evaluation of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity.
  • how to involve stakeholders in this process.
  • results of different vulnerability assessments.
In the global change context, vulnerability is the likelihood that a specific coupled human-environment system may experience harm from exposure to stresses associated with alterations of societies and the biosphere, accounting for the process of adaptation. The term coupled human-environment system is used to highlight the fact that human and environmental systems are part of an integrated whole. Vulnerability is typically described to be a function of three overlapping characteristics: exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. Vulnerability assessments include not only the analysis of vulnerability but also the identification of specific options for stakeholders to reduce that vulnerability. Stakeholders are people and organizations with specific interests in the evolution of specific human-environment systems. Given these definitions, the general objective of vulnerability assessments is to inform the decision-making of specific stakeholders about options for adapting to the effects of global change. In this way vulnerability assessments link directly with the broader aim of sustainable development and sustainability science, where successful research is measured by not only pure scientific merit but also by the utility of the resulting products and recommendations. In the growing community of vulnerability science several methods are used to assess vulnerability for different systems, to different stressors and to different outcomes, ranging from loss of recreational opportunities in a landscape to loss of lives due to starvation.

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Seminar Topics
The 10 seminar topics suggested below cover the following general subject areas: Seminar 1: Scenarios of global change - narratives of the future Seminar 2: Greenhouse gas emissions and environmental change: scenarios of atmospheric composition, climate and sea level rise Seminar 3: Socio-economic trends and environmental change: scenarios of population and land use change Seminar 4: Biodiversity and stability Guest speaker Prof. Dr. Tony Patt on Environmental Economics

Seminar 5: Ecosystem services: a link between ecosystems and humans Seminar 6: Global change impacts on ecosystems: current observations Seminar 7: Vulnerability is the probability to be wounded - But what is Global Change Vulnerability? Seminar 8: Stakeholder involvement in scientific assessments: who are the stakeholders? How should stakeholders and scientists work together? Seminar 9: Vulnerability: results from environmental ecology Seminar 10: Vulnerability: results from integrated assessments Top of the page