Human migration and global environmental change: A vicious cycle?

MigSoKo is a junior research group co-funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funding priority Social-Ecological Research (SÖF) and Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) aiming to understand the causalities between environmental change and human migration on the tropics.

Environmental changes can directly and indirectly affect human migration, particularly through its complex interrelationships with a series of economic, social and political factors. In turn, migration can cause environmental changes. At their destinations, immigrants affect the landscape, partly due to overuse of natural resources, which may reduce natural vegetation and ecosystem services, and potentially can cause land degradation. As such, environmental change and migration can potentially reinforce each other: Declining environmental conditions contribute to emigration while immigration causes new ecological problems and land use changes. Currently, an in-depth understanding of the underlying mechanisms is lacking and it is still unclear if and how human migration and environmental change may get trapped in a vicious cycle. MigSoKo aims answering these overarching questions with a strong inter- and transdisciplinary approach.

Key objectives and approaches

Our aim is to identify and explain spatial patterns of migration and environmental change, and to disentangle the relationships between environmental change, population pressure, human migration, and environmental consequences of migration for arid and semi-arid regions. Ethiopia is taken as an example.

A broad range of methods is applied to obtain information regarding the environment-migration relationship, including extensive fieldwork using social-science methods, time-series analyses of environmental data, Agent-Based-Modelling and Meta-analyses.

Lead by

Kathleen Hermans (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Leipzig, Germany)

Photo: Juliane Groth




WaterSES Water scarcity and governance across Social-Ecological Systems (WaterSES). WaterSES is an endorsed project [...]

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