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Spatial Risk Management and Climate Impact Research

ESPON 1.3.1: Spatial Impacts of Natural and Technological Hazards (2002- 2005)

In 2002 the European Commission launched the European Spatial Planning Observation Network (ESPON) as a comprehensive transnational spatial monitoring and forecasting system

  1. to identify the factors relevant for a more polycentric European territory
  2. to develop territorial indicators and typologies for identifying and measuring development trends,
  3. to develop analytical tools to identify structural problems and potentials,
  4. to investigate territorial impacts of sectoral and structural EU policies and
  5. to develop integrated policy tools to promote a balanced and polycentric territorial development in line with the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESPD).


Natural hazards have been known to human settlements from their very beginning. Technological hazards, despite their relative novelty, are at least as manifold as natural hazards. The destructive potential of technological disasters is comparable to, if not greater than that of natural hazards. Nuclear meltdown is probably the most severe technological disaster possible. But there are many other technological hazards, such as accidents in the chemical and oil industries or mining accidents. There are also combinations of natural and technological hazards, such as river floods that are increased in their impacts by hydrological engineering works to straighten rivers. In addition, climate change can have a multiplying effect on hazards that were perceived as minor in the past but suddenly develop into severe threats, such as droughts causing extensive forest fires or heavy storms devastating previously safe coastal areas.


ESPON 1.3.1 will categorise natural and technological hazards and assess cities and regions with respect to their vulnerability to hazards. Vulnerability is defined as a lack of capacity of cities and regions to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impacts of natural or technological hazards. ESPON 1.3.1 will establish the interactions between natural and social aspects of vulnerability to hazards. Understanding vulnerability is a precondition for developing risk management tools and targeted spatial planning responses. The objective is to show the potential of spatial planning for a long-range reduction of the vulnerability of regions, in particular a reduction of damage potential and a strengthening of the capacity to respond to catastrophes.


ESPON 1.3.1 is a co-operation of six research institutes from Finland, Germany, Portugal and Sweden under the co-ordination of the Geological Survey of Finland, Espoo, Finland.

Contact: Dr. rer. pol. Mark Fleischhauer, Prof. Dr. Stefan Greiving

Further information: www.espon.lu

Other projects in this research area: