Hochwassereinsatz ÖBH Fischamend

Foto: Bundesheer

Einsatzfahrzeuge der Feuerwehr

Foto: Dietmar Walser

Project Description


Extreme hydrological events, such as those which recently occurred in Austria, Switzerland and Germany have focused the attention of the European community on the vulnerability to natural hazards. In the same time, in recent years risk governance and policies throughout Europe are changing the role of the state and individual responsibilities for risk management and precaution. The new policy agenda is to enhance the responsibilities of local authorities and private citizens in mountain hazards.

European mountain regions are highly susceptible to climate change impacts and the resulting dynamics in the frequency and magnitude of mountain hazards (which includes river and torrential flooding (i.e. dynamic flooding with sediment transport and debris flow), rock falls, landslides and avalanche processes) as well as in socio-economic dynamics. In parallel, the context of changing mountain hazards under climate change is driving transformation in the role of the state in responsibility sharing and individual responsibilities for risk management and precaution.

Emerging natural hazards strategies place the lead responsibility on local organisations to determine local strategies to manage local risks which demand societal transformation. The main reasons for this shift from centralised to decentralised organisation is that local scale is more efficient in dealing with those tasks relating to risk and emergency management. These developments pose a contingent liability to Austrian governments and administrations, that are struggling to maintain the current level of protection despite stretched public budgets.


The overall goals are:

  • Document and evaluate how climate change adaptation strategies with respect to mountain hazards are institutionalised and how this strategy contributes contribute to societal transformation?
  • By which criteria are various coping options judged as effective, and how do these criteria differ between public and private actors?
  • How are private protection strategies affected by the availability of and information on public protection measures and by decision heuristics?
  • How may public and private actors negotiate the distribution of responsibility for action – and how may they agree who shall carry the residual risk?
  • What are policy-relevant tools to introduce local adaptation strategies to mountain hazards in a changing climate and social context, and how may these tools guide the decision-making process at different levels of public administration?


The project elaborates the aspect of sharing responsibility to risk management. This will be done in an inclusive manner that builds on the knowledge, capabilities and preferences of the national to local stakeholders and policy domain representatives. By doing so, SHARED clearly goes beyond the current state of the art and knowledge by emphasising the following principles:

  • Communication and participation: steady communication with stakeholders is important to validate the scientific input, to pick-up the views and perceptions of natural hazards management strategies in practice. The systematic and structured communication and participation efforts in SHARED are secured through expert interviews at a national, regional and local level, consultation with the stakeholders during various workshops.
  • Transparency: Transparency is important to legitimise and enhance the quality of knowledge produced in the project. Therefore, each stakeholder contact and participatory measure in SHARED will be taken seriously, which means that the methods and approaches applied are equipped with sufficient resources and time, professionally implemented and conducted. Intermediate results will be accessible online to those directly involved as well as to the interested public.
  • Practicability: The practical relevance of the proposed adaptive measures will be emphasised and made visible by connecting to local and regional actors using tools and methods of transdisciplinary research.
  • Transferability: The transferability of the SHARED approach to other highly vulnerable communities in Austria will be presented and discussed.
  • Integration: The outcomes of the review on international practice are presented to stakeholders and serve as an input for the bottom-up contextualisation of climate change adaptation strategies. The context specific consideration helps to take the interlinkage of different drivers of change into consideration while other research often remains additive at this stage.

Project Partners

University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU)

The Institute of Mountain Risk Engineering (IAN) is part of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna, Austria, and an international centre of research and education in environmental sciences, in particular specialised on natural hazards in mountain regions. IAN mainly deals with hazard and risk assessment for mountain environments, including forest and land management, technical and biological mitigation measures as well as disaster and risk management. Active research areas include the analysis and management of torrential floods, sediment transport, debris flows, snow avalanches, and landslides; including the assessment of potential loses and vulnerability. IAN has been widely involved in national, international and in several EU-funded research projects.

Joanneum Research

The LIFE Centre for Climate, Energy and Society addresses the key issues related to climate change: How can society cope better with the risks of global warming and how can we minimise the associated economic damage? Will climate change also bring economic opportunities? How can these opportunities be realised? What steps are necessary to guide our society towards a more sustainable development path in order to slow down climate change? All these research issues are closely interrelated with each other and require similar methodological approaches.

Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung (ZEW)

The Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) in Mannheim is one of Germany’s leading economic research institutes, and enjoys a strong reputation throughout Europe. ZEW pursues four key objectives: To conduct research of the highest quality, to provide scientifically grounded economic policy advice, to train up-and-coming economists, and to inform the professional and lay public. The ZEW team within the SHARED project will draw on its expertise in climate change adaptation and experimental economic research, and analyze household adaptation behavior in the city of Dornbirn by experimental methods.


  • City of Dornbirn
  • Fire Brigade of Dornbirn
  • District supervisor of Dornbirn
  • Fire Brigade of Vorarlberg
  • Federal Water Authorities of Vorarlberg
  • Torrent and Avalanche Control of Vorarlberg

Case Study

The area of investigation is the city of Dornbirn as the largest city in the Federal State of Vorarlberg with 45.000 inhabitants in 2009 and an area of 121 km2. Dornbirn has high rate of social-economic development and growth of population and is a major site for education, industry, trade and services. Besides large mountainous areas, Dornbirn is highly populated in the Rhine-valley.

Dornbirn´s natural risk are multifaceted. Floods could occur triggered by the Dornbirner Ache, a river, which has the characteristics of a torrent, due to a large catchment area and huge amount of possible debris inflow. Moreover, several smaller torrents and creeks threats the city´s buildings und structures. Flood situations mostly occur due to the high annual precipitation rates of about 2,200mm combined with heavy precipitation events. In 2013, 2015 and 2016 the city remained largely untroubled by disastrous events, but hundreds of emergency scenes for the fire department were recorded. Dornbirn lies in several different geological successions. Hence, susceptibility of small- and medium scale landslides as well as hallow landslides are a major risk for the community. Further, several parts of Dornbirn are especially prone to rockslides.

Stadt Dornbirn

Foto: Stadt Dornbirn


Scientific papers:

Magdalena Rauter, Sven Fuchs, Arthur Schindelegger, Thomas Thaler (2019): Deconstructing the legal framework for flood protection in Austria: individual and state responsibilities from a planning perspective. Water International. doi: 10.1080/02508060.2019.1627641.

Thomas Thaler, Andreas Zischg, Margreth Keiler, Sven Fuchs (2018): Allocation of risk and benefits – distributional justices in mountain hazard management. Regional Environmental Change. doi: 10.1007/s10113-017-1229-y.

Sven Fuchs, Konstantinos Karagiorgos, Kyriaki Kitikidou, Fotios Maris, Spyridon Paparrizos, Thomas Thaler (2017): Flood risk perception and adaptation capacity: a contribution to the socio-hydrology debate. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 21, 3183-3198. doi: 10.5194/hess-21-3183-2017.

Christian Kuhlicke, Sebastian Seebauer, Paul Hudson, Chloe Begg, Philipp Bubeck, Cordula Dittmer, Torsten Grothmann, Anna Heidenreich, Heidi Kreibich, Daniel Lorenz, Torsten Masson, Jessica Reiter, Thomas Thaler, Annegreth H. Thieken, Sebastian Bamberg (2020). The behavioral turn in flood risk management, its assumptions and potential implications. WIREs Water, 7(3), 1-22. doi:10.1002/wat2.1418.

Sebastian Seebauer, Philipp Babcicky (2020): The sources of belief in personal capability: Antecedents of self-efficacy in private adaptation to flood risk. Risk Analysis, 40(10), 1967-1982. doi:10.1111/risa.13531.

Sebastian Seebauer, Philipp Babcicky (2021): (Almost) all quiet over one and a half years: A longitudinal study on causality between key determinants of private flood mitigation. Risk Analysis, 41(6), 958-975. doi:10.1111/risa.13598.

Working paper:

Magdalena Rauter, Thomas Thaler, Marie-Sophie Attems, Sven Fuchs (2019): Obligation or innovation: Can the EU Floods Directive be seen as a tipping point towards a more resilient flood risk management in Austria? Working Paper 4 – SHARED, BOKU-Vienna.

Magdalena Rauter, Maria Kaufmann, Thomas Thaler, Sven Fuchs (2019): Am I responsible? – Finding a shared optimum for flood mitigation in between public and private actors in Austria. Working Paper 5 – SHARED, BOKU-Vienna.

Articles for non-academic audiences:

Clemens Pfurtscheller, Sebastian Seebauer, Thomas Thaler (2018): Mehr Eigenvorsorge für den Schutz vor Hoch- und Oberflächenwasser. readING. Infos der Ingenieurbüros, pp. 10-12.

Sebastian Seebauer (2018): BürgerInnenbefragung zum Hochwasserschutz in Dornbirn. SHARED Factsheet.

Presentations at conferences and workshops:

Sebastian Seebauer, Philipp Babcicky (2019): (Almost) all quiet over one and a half years: A longitudinal study on causality between key determinants of private flood mitigation. International Conference on Environmental Psychology, 4-6 September, Plymouth, United Kingdom.

Daniel Osberghaus, Christiane Reif (2019): Insurance in an experimental setting: the effects of relief schemes and loss experience. International Meeting on Experimental and Behavioral Social Sciences (IMEBESS), 2-4 May, Utrecht, the Netherlands

Daniel Osberghaus (2019): Insurance in an experimental setting: the effects of relief schemes and loss experience. Workshop at the German Insurance Association GDV, Berlin, Germany

Magdalena Rauter, Sven Fuchs, Thomas Thaler, Maria Kaufmann (2019): Am I responsible? Finding a shared optimum for flood risk management in between public and private actors. 4th European Climate Change Adaptation Conference, 28-31 May, Lisbon, Portugal.

Sebastian Seebauer (2018): Longitudinal analysis of the Protection Motivation Theory over 1.5 years: High stability masks causal effects. RISK_M Workshop – From Data to Resilience, 16-18 May, Bielefeld, Germany.

Magdalena Rauter, Sven Fuchs, Arthur Schindelegger, Thomas Thaler (2018): Breaking down the legal framework for flood protection in Austria: Individual and public responsibilities form a planning perspective. 12th PLPR Annual Conference, 19-23 February, Novi Sad, Serbian.

Thomas Thaler (2017): New ways in Austria – what are the possible trends in the Austrian flood risk management policy. 3rd European Climate Change Adaptation Conference – Our climate ready future, 5-9 June, Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Christiane Reif (2018): Insurance in an experimental setting: the effects of relief schemes and loss experience, Experimental Seminar ZEW/University Mannheim, Germany.

Poster presentations:

Thomas Thaler, Magdalena Rauter, Sven Fuchs, Sebastian Seebauer, Claudia Winkler, Christiane Reif, Daniel Osberghaus (2018): Adaptation strategies and policy implementation for sharing responsibility in managing mountain hazards. 19. Österreichische Klimatag, 23-25. April, Salzburg, Österreich

Magdalena Rauter, Thomas Thaler, Sven Fuchs, Christiane Reif, Daniel Osberghaus, Sebastian Seebauer, Claudia Winkler (2018): Adaptation strategies and policy implementation for sharing responsibility in managing mountain hazards (SHARED). European Geosciences Union, General Assembly, 8-13. April 2018, Wien, Österreich.

Marie-Sophie Attems, Sven Fuchs, Magdalena Rauter, Thomas Thaler (2018): Stärkung der Eigenvorsorge im Naturgefahrenmanagement. Stand der Technik im Naturgefahren-Ingenieurwesen – 2. Fachtagung, 21-23 Februar 2018, Wien, Österreich.


Dr. Thomas Thaler
Institute of Mountain Risk Engineering (IAN)
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU)

+43 1 47654-87120