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Projects and ongoing research


  • Deciphering the fluvio-social metabolism of the Upper Rhine area (DEMUR) - Factors and actors in the transformation towards a fluvial anthroposphere prior to the industrial period
    Project Manager
    Blöthe J, Glaser R, Preusser F, Schenk G
    Start/End of Project
    01.01.2023 until 31.03.2026
    Description
    Human influence has long interfered with natural floodplain evolution. While the indirect effects of deforestation on sediment transport and floodplain dynamics have been extensively researched, the socio-ecological processes and feedback mechanisms that determine how fluvial systems evolve along trajectories and path dependencies have only recently entered the scientific debate. We use the concept of a fluvio-social metabolism to illustrate these complex interdependencies between anthropogenic and natural processes that define how natural river systems transitioned into a fluvial anthroposphere. The aim of the project is to decipher the fluvio-social metabolism along path-dependencies and trajectories and to understand system dynamics of the fluvial anthroposphere in the Upper Rhine area. We focus on three specific aspects and their mutual interdependencies: socio-political systems, climate dynamics, and legacy sediments, integrating social and environmental archives as well as detailed laboratory and geostatistical analysis. By combining quantitative, semi-quantitative and qualitative methods we combine social and natural sciences. We seek to determine integrating indicators for the transition from natural floodplains to a fluvial anthroposphere on multiple spatio-temporal scales. Our research analyses the period from medieval times until the onset of the industrial revolution in the region around 1850 with focus on suspected transition periods. We hypothesise that in this fluvio-social system, specific socio-natural and political constellations, including territorial shifts, economical exploitation, institutions, conflicts, climatic variability and extremes, as well as riverine floods, determined path dependencies and trajectories of fluvial landscape evolution that found their expression in the floodplain record as legacy sediments. We follow a multidisciplinary approach that integrates the expertise from different disciplines, combining historic, climatic, and geomorphologic expertise. In three interlinking work packages, we investigate how 1) actors, socio-political constellations and institutions influenced floodplain development, 2) regional climate variability and extreme events impacted socio-ecological processes, and 3) natural and societal dynamics found their expression in the floodplain sedimentary record. Synthesising these various strands of social, climatic and geomorphologic results, we ultimately aim to integrate our insights into deciphering the fluvio-social metabolism. Finally, we evaluate to which degree our results can contribute to model this dynamic fluvio-social metabolism empirically, numerically and multivariate-statistically.
    Contact Person
    Blöthe J
    Phone: 203-9224
    Email: jan.bloethe@geographie.uni-freiburg.de
    Financing
    DFG
  • 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; 8: 661-678: https://doi.org/10.5194/esurf-2020-3