Institute of Geography

Research Projects

Exploring pathways for transformation to sustainability using the safe and just operating space concept at the regional level


SUccESS aims to identify transformation pathways towards sustainability that are both safe within the ecological boundaries of a place, and socially just. These pathways will be explored by using a system dynamics approach to ensure a safe and just operating space (SJOS) for transformation to sustainability at the regional scale in Kenya. This integrative approach provides an innovative way to address the sustainability of social-ecological systems (SES) and their transformation options in a globalized context.

This will enable to explore answers to the questions: how long can economic development stay on a sustainable path and at what point does it become unsustainable?

SUccESS will also help to identify optimum pathways for achieving UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in response to environmental change and to avoid the disastrous consequences for humanity at a regional scale.

Safe operating space concept

Fig. A conceptualized (Hossain et al., 2017) sequence of the safe operating safe concept for regional social-ecological systems.

Project Details

Team: Dr. Md. Sarwar Hossain Sohel (Principal Investigator), Prof. Dr. Chinwe Ifejika Speranza (Co-Investigator)

In partnership with: Center for Training and Integrated Research in ASAL Development (CETRAD). Dr. Boniface Kiteme,

Duration: 2019 - 2020

Funding: Marie Sklodowska-Curie individual Fellowships (H2020-MSCA-IF-2017: 796994), European Commission.   

Contact: Dr. Md. Sarwar Hossain Sohel,


Funding of Success Project

International workshop on modelling risk and resilience in human and natural systems 

May 6-8th, 2019 at the University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

Scope of the workshop

Natural disasters consist of human and natural components that are interconnected. While progress has been made to mitigate and adapt to natural hazards, much of the existing research lacks interdisciplinary approaches that equally consider both natural and social processes. More importantly, this lack of integration between approaches remains a major challenge in developing disaster risk management plans for communities. The proposed early career researcher workshop on Modelling risk and resilience in human and natural systems aims to:

  • Establish the progress made in modelling risk and resilience to natural hazards,
  • Identify remaining challenges, and
  • Discover opportunities for future research.

To achieve this, we are bringing together international researchers engaged in modelling risk and resilience to natural hazards. The result of the workshop will be a commentary article, in a scientific journal, based on the findings of presentations, group discussions, and post-workshop engagement of workshop participants.

Publications and other deliverables: 

Special Issue on “Social-Ecological changes and transformation to Sustainability in Coastal Areas" - Science of the Total Environment

Elsevier's "Science of the Total Environment" (IF=5.58), has agreed to publish a special issue on social-ecological changes and transformation to sustainability in coastal areas. All manuscript submissions are subject to initial appraisal by the Guest Editors and if found suitable for further consideration, to peer review by independent, anonymous expert referees.


Humanity has entered a new phase of sustainability challenges arising from anthropogenic activities that increasingly influence earth’s climate and ecosystems. In this context, we are confronted with sustainably transforming our current systems to meet basic human needs for all, while ensuring environmental sustainability for future generations. 

Coastal areas, where approximately 40% of global population lives within 100 km of the shore, are experiencing particularly acute sustainability challenges arising from shifting boundary conditions in both human and ecological domains. This includes salinization of coastal farmland, deforestation of mangroves, and rapid urbanization within coastal floodplains, among others.

Achieving long-term and sustainable societal transformation requires understanding human-nature interactions at both historical and contemporary time scales. The concept of social-ecological change as viewed through the lens of social-ecological systems (SES) research offers new theory, empirical methods, and insights through which human-nature interactions can be better understood.  The objective of this special issue is to advance understanding of the social-ecological changes and transformation to sustainability in coastal areas through SES approaches and related analytical methods. 

Scope and Potential Topics

We invite original research article, reviews, communication paper including, but not limited to, the following themes:

  • Long-term trends, and transitions in interactions between coastal SES
  • Spatial heterogeneity of social-ecological changes and sustainability   
  • Models for coastal social-ecological transformation to sustainability 
  • Quantitative (e.g. modelling, remote sensing) and qualitative (e.g. community perception, social networks) approaches for assessing coastal social - ecological changes and transformation to sustainability 
  • Sustainable management of land, water, and agricultural systems, as well as sustainable livelihoods and wellbeing in coastal areas 
  • Management and governance of social-ecological changes and transformation to sustainability in coastal zones

The number of expected papers to be published in this Special Issue: 10-15. The final selection of papers will be based on scientific quality of the papers through the peer review process according to the guideline of STOTEN.

Guest editors

Name: Dr. Md. Sarwar Hossain
Affiliation: Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Switzerland
Interests: Social-ecological systems analysis and modelling, system dynamics modelling, ecosystem services and human well-being, boundaries (e.g. safe and just operating space, tipping point) for sustainable development, coastal management, risk and resilience of social-ecological systems.

Name: Dr. Animesh K. Gain
Affiliation: Environmental Policy and Planning Group, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA
Interests: Social-ecological system; coastal management; water resources management

Name: Dr. Kimberly G. Rogers
Affiliation: Coastal Studies Institute, Department of Coastal Studies, East Carolina University, USA
Interests: Coupled human-natural systems; coastal hazards related to global change and anthropogenic processes; environmental governance; social-ecological-technical systems

Name: Prof. Chinwe Ifejika Speranza
Affiliation: Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Switzerland
Interests: Sustainable Land Management, Land use and land cover analysis, Climate variability and climate change adaptation and mitigation, Ecosystem services / natural resources, Social-ecological resilience, Environmental performance, Environmental justice, Environmental stewardship  / Environmental policy, Conceptual and methodological development

Submission deadline: November 30, 2019