1. Cities in transition, resilience and adaptation to climate change

Limiting global warming compared to the pre-industrial era requires a reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions in all areas of human activity. However, at present this is not yet happening. While more than half of the world's population lives in cities today, this proportion will rise to more than two-thirds by 2050. Cities must therefore rapidly implement measures to adapt to climate change (CC), but also to mitigate CC, a process that many cities have already initiated and that requires significant research efforts to enhance the efficiency and impact of public policies. The RISE wishes to catalyze the setting up and development of national and international research projects to develop concepts, methods, various forms of urban organisation, and more generally new urban models and modes of governance, to globally favor urban resilience to climate change.

2. Which transition for the sustainability of socio-hydrosystems in a context of global change?

While the ecosystem services provided by hydrological systems (“hydrosystems”) are essential to societies, their functioning has been severely altered over the last few decades. This is particularly true in the Upper Rhine Valley, which is characterized by :

  • a high density of human activities,
  • an exceptional diversity of environments linked to water, from the headwaters of the mid-mountain basins to the alluvial plain and its aquifer,
  • particularly alarming forecasts of global warming.


The research strengths related to water on the Alsatian university site are remarkable, suggesting a strong potential for the development of interdisciplinary research in sustainability sciences in this field. This axis is based on two interlocking spatial scales:

  • The scale of the Upper Rhine transboundary river socio-hydrosystem,
  • The scale of the socio-hydrosystems of the alluvial plain and the adjacent catchment areas.

3. Reflexive approaches to study socio-ecosystems: bridging human and social sciences and biogeophysical sciences

Facing human-induced bio-geophysical changes, we have entered a period of uncertainty about the future of the biosphere and our societies. Yet the use of technologies and natural and social sciences to drive the ecological transition remains largely underexplored. The dynamics of socio-ecosystems (SES) are also currently still insufficiently understood, which may lead to inappropriate decisions by societies in the face of global change.

This axis of RISE develops a reflexive approach for SES study and to bridge social and biogeophysical disciplines to model SES trajectories. First, an inclusive and critical scientific reflexive framework will be set-up to define and refine concepts, principles and practices of actors’ dynamics in their biogeophysical and societal context (scientists, citizens, institutions, companies, NGOs). This is a first step to impulse paradigm shifts for sustainability transition, and support the development of models combining biogeophysical processes and human activities. A consensus on definitions and beneficial use of common concepts among disciplines is essential to define transition scenarios, yet it is mostly still lacking. The purpose of this framework WP is to develop inclusive interdisciplinary work on concepts that both define a common vocabulary and verify the operability approaches for sustainability transition. We rely on theoretical and comparative investigation of concepts developed by academic participants and described in the scientific literature. Their operational value will be assessed and possibly redesigned (Symposium). Our goal is to elaborate an interdisciplinary framework for SES study and sustainability transition concepts, such as ecological solidarity, resilience and viability, status and values of natural entities, sustainability indicators, sustainable innovations, etc. This will be elaborated through workshops with participation of both interested RISE members and SES stakeholders (Symposium). It will also allow to identify main key scenarios of sustainability transition for detailed investigation of Axis 1 and 2 within RISE.


The current lack of common analytical frameworks to reconstruct SES trajectories also represents a significant challenge in order to be able to develop and communicate between social and natural science domains. Hence, major analytical frameworks for studying interlinked social and ecological systems is first revisited and extended to develop a methodology for interdisciplinary SES study.

  • This first stage includes integration of biogeophysical and socio-cultural processes for SES transition, bridging conceptualization approaches, defining relevant indicators of SES evolution, and conceptualizing quantitative and qualitative models to understand SES evolution.
  • Second, interdisciplinary models of interactions between elements identified in the first stage are built to take emergent properties of SES into account, mainly focusing on model uncertainty and non-linear dynamics.
  • Third, these integrated models will be used to evaluate selected diverse SES evolution scenarios. These scenarios of current and alternative trajectories are co-constructed with academic and socio-economic partners to support decision-making processes towards sustainability transition of SES. Various scenarios are established to support studies in axes 1 and 2 of RISE, that could account for multi-level regional governance and transboundary systems of governance. Citizen science is also included to build scenarios and discuss SES trajectories.