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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - IRI THESys

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Projects | IRI THESys | Research | Research Groups | Transformations of Land-Water-Systems

Transformations and uncertainties of land-water systems

The research group "Transformations and uncertainties of land-water systems", led by Prof. Tobias Krüger, investigates the transformation and interrelations of global and regional water cycles.

A Cattle in Norfolk, UK Photo: Tobias Krüger
Fig.:Tobias Krüger

Tensions between supply of and multiple demands for land and water will increasingly join up urban and rural environments and communities, developing and developed economies, and bring about profound challenges of human and national security, democracy and justice. How best then to achieve an integrated understanding of these complex interrelations? How best to deal with uncertainties and the need to adapt when managing these systems? How best to enable stakeholder deliberations around local solutions to global problems? What is risk and what is sustainability in the face of uncertainty?

With these broad questions in mind, we study the interrelations of water with other natural resources and societal needs (e.g. climate, food, energy, security), with particular emphasis on human-environment interactions, transformations, uncertainties and global-local feedbacks. We work interdisciplinary at the interface of environmental science, statistics, institutional economics and science and technology studies. Our research is both theoretical and applied with the aim of using social science insights to inform natural science practice, ultimately encouraging inter- and transdisciplinarity. We are engaged in knowledge exchange with representatives from policy, industry and the public in order to improve the questions, database and methods as well as the practical application of our research.


Global and regional water cycles are changing, and these changes are intimately linked with climate and land use changes. It is clear that all of these transformations have environmental as well as human dimensions. Water quality, too, is greatly impacted by the changes we make on the land. Any pollution, in turn, constrains the various uses of water, many of which are again land-based. We study these transformations of land-water systems, aim to describe, understand and predict them, but we also want to positively influence the transformation processes by supporting communities in their governance, use and management of land and water resources. One way of doing this for us has been participatory research, and participatory modelling in particular.


Robustness is important when disentangling drivers of transformation in complex human-environment systems and providing decision support. Questions of risk and sustainability ultimately have to be answered with respect to uncertainty. A key methodological component of our research is therefore uncertainty analysis. We are interested in the theoretical conceptions of different types of uncertainty: from uncertainty in scientific information and models to societal uncertainty and future trajectories. Where applicable, we use the different quantitative theories of uncertainty. Where these reach their limits, we employ participatory and reflexive methods.

Current projects

Former projects


Tobias Krüger Photo: Andresa Süß
Photo:Andreas Süß

Research Group Leader


Prof. Dr. Tobias Krüger, Research Group Leader
Phone: +49 (030) 2093-66342
E-Mail: tobias.krueger@hu-berlin.de