Population and Environment

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 481–509

Inter- and transdisciplinary approaches to population–environment research for sustainability aims: a review and appraisal


    • Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE)
  • Susana Adamo
    • The Earth Institute at Columbia UniversityCIESIN
  • Alex de Sherbinin
    • The Earth Institute at Columbia UniversityCIESIN
  • Laura Murphy
    • Department of International Health and DevelopmentTulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
  • Rimjhim Aggarwal
    • School of SustainabilityArizona State University
  • Leo Zulu
    • Department of GeographyMichigan State University
  • Jianguo Liu
    • Center for Systems Integration and SustainabilityMichigan State University
  • Kyle Knight
    • Department of SociologyUniversity of Alabama
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11111-012-0176-2

Cite this article as:
Hummel, D., Adamo, S., de Sherbinin, A. et al. Popul Environ (2013) 34: 481. doi:10.1007/s11111-012-0176-2


The causes and consequences of demographic changes for the environment, and the possible ways of influencing population dynamics to achieve ‘sustainability’, have been the subject of many debates in science and policy in recent decades. However, the body of knowledge concerning relationships between population dynamics and sustainability is quite fragmented, dispersed over many disciplines, and encompasses diverse theories, paradigms and methodologies. This paper reviews four selected frameworks: linear, multiplicative, mediated, and system-theoretical approaches and perspectives. We represent how population–environment relationships are conceptualized, provide examples of research questions and accepted approaches, and critically assess their utility for different sorts of research for sustainable development. We note the growing recognition of the value of embracing complexity in population–environment research, and how this is consistent with normative aims of development.


Population–environment theoryMethodologyPolitical ecologySustainable developmentSTIRPATSustainable livelihoods approachSocial-ecological systemsTransdisciplinarity

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012