ENVIEDAN - Environmental history of the Viennese Danube 1500 – 1890: Understanding long-term dynamics, patterns and side-effects of the colonization of rivers

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ENVIEDAN produced the first integrated environmental history of the Viennese Danube from 1500 to the early 20th century. The project was carried out by an interdisciplinary team of environmental historians, social ecologists and river morphologists. It created new scientific knowledge by demonstrating the longevity of the river´s transformation from a dynamic fluvial system into a straight river channel with fixed banks. For reconstructing past hydro-morphological patterns and dynamics a new method, the “regressive-iterative-approach”, was developed. The river’s functions and roles were conceptualized as “socio-natural sites” in which humans and nature form hybrids that can be studied as co-evolutionary developments of practices and arrangements. Threats imposed by regular floods and the use of the river’s kinetic energy for navigation and urban supply were a main driver for technical interventions into the riverscape throughout the whole study period. In contrast, other drivers such as military defense or the reclamation of urban land can be found only at specific times. The Danube and its urban tributaries were the main discharge system for urban waste for centuries. When urbanization and industrialization processes intensified in the course of the 19th century technical infrastructure became part of the wastewater arrangements.

Human perception of the Danube in Vienna was studied by comparative analysis of topographical sources of Danube landscapes (Andraschek-Holzer & Schmid 2011, 2012). Fluvial patterns and dynamics were reconstructed with historical maps, archival sources and GIS-tools (Hohensinner et al. 2013 a, b). Investigating the role of the Danube for defense in the 16th and 17th centuries provided new insights into the military role of urban rivers (Sonnlechner et al. 2013). Changing spatial patterns of urban development demonstrated the increasing importance of the floodplains especially in the 19th century (Haidvogl 2012, Haidvogl et al. 2013). Reconstructing the river’s role for transport and discharge revealed fundamental changes in the urban metabolism (Gierlinger et al., 2013; Gingrich et al., 2012).

Results of ENVIEDAN are to date published in nine peer-reviewed journal articles and 12 other articles and book chapters A thematic issue of The International Journal of Water History (volume 5/2 June 2013) is the most important product. ENVIEDAN was presented to a wide range of scientific communities at several international and national scientific conferences and workshops (altogether 31 presentations). The project was also made available to a larger public by articles and interviews in newspapers, journals and on national radio programs. Animated reconstructions are available on YouTube.  

ENVIEDAN has laid the groundwork for two follow-up projects granted by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (Viennese Wood Supply) and the Austrian Science Fund FWF (URBWATER).

Expected results: 

Contribution to Danube Region: 

Knowledge about city-river relations from 1500-1900 

May, 2010 to December, 2012
Wien Museum