Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 76 | 15. September 2021

Priority Programme “On the Way to the Fluvial Anthroposphere” (SPP 2361)

In March 2021, the Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) established the Priority Programme “On the Way to the Fluvial Anthroposphere” (SPP 2361). The programme is designed to run for six years. The present call invites proposals for the first three-year funding period.

The Priority Programme will investigate the pre-industrial floodplains in Central Europe and the fluvial societies that operated there. Floodplains are global hotspots of sensitive socio-environmental changes, exceptionally dynamic landscapes, and key areas of cultural and natural heritage. Due to their high land-use capacity and the simultaneous necessity of land reclamation and risk minimisation, societies have radically restructured Central European floodplains. This anthropogenic restructuring can be so significant that former floodplains are no longer recognisable as such. The question therefore arises as to whether or when it is justified to understand specific floodplains as a “Fluvial Anthroposphere” and which socio-ecological processes have been involved in their development.

The Priority Programme aims to answer the questions of when and why humans became a significant controlling factor in floodplain formation and how humans in interaction with natural processes modified floodplains. It will clarify the extent to which short-term and long-term natural floodplain dynamics together with early human impacts affected subsequent developments and led to path dependencies. The Priority Programme encourages project proposals from archaeology, the geosciences, and history that analyse the interaction of humans and their environments in the emergence of the Fluvial Anthroposphere through multidisciplinary and cutting-edge methodological approaches.

The spatial focus of individual projects must be on the Elbe, Rhine, and Danube river systems, either one system, two systems or all three, in order to compare specific pathways of the gradual build-up of anthropogenic impacts on the floodplains as well as the development of interrelated fluvial societies. The strict spatial focus is on socio-natural sites in the floodplain itself with a focus on large to medium scale tributaries (2nd and 3rd order). In the first funding period (2022–2025), the focus will be on individual and comparative case studies. By the second funding period (2025–2028) at the latest, additional benefit should be created through increasingly comparative analyses of case studies, categorisations, and transferable models at intra- and inter-basin scales.

Projects must focus on the medieval and pre-industrial modern periods and be based upon the systematic overlay of historical, archaeological, and geoscientific data that entails the use of the methodological expertise of at least one discipline in the natural sciences and one in the humanities. However, supplementary earlier and later dimensions may complement the medieval and pre-industrial focus in order to identify and quantify anthropogenic changes and develop geoscientific parameters and their related Holocene boundary levels.

Each project must contribute to the key hypothesis of a pre-modern emergence of a Fluvial Anthroposphere in the context of the global Anthroposphere/Anthropocene debate. All projects must contribute to innovative thematic and/or methodological developments of this research field and commit to a systematic cross-project classification framework based on (semi-)quantitative indices of anthropogenic impacts, which will be developed jointly by all participating researchers.
Our specific thematic objectives are:

  • Recovery and modelling of social response mechanisms to abrupt events in floodplains (e.g. extreme flood events). We particularly encourage systematic studies that focus on palaeohydrological and socio-cultural key control variables.
  • Recovery and modelling of long-term social responses towards medium- and long-term changes in flood regimes and floodplain accessibility (e.g. social adaption and wetland colonisation strategies).
  • Reconstruction and modelling of floodplain land use and direct human impact on modifications of riparian vegetation by new multi-proxy approaches.
  • Reconstruction and modelling of the effects of fishing, hunting, hydro-engineering, and floodplain habitat changes on faunal biodiversity by means of diachronic synthesis.
  • Cross-period syntheses of the history of hydro-energy exploitation and related socio-natural sites, path dependencies, and impacts.
  • Reconstruction and modelling of impacts of craft, manufacturing, and mining on floodplain dynamics and pollution.
  • Recovery of socio-ecological and environmental significances of river crossings, especially approaches that recover the diachronic history and path dependencies of river crossings and associated socio-natural processes.
  • Cross-period syntheses of the history of land reclamation and related socio-natural floodplain sites.
  • Cross-period syntheses of the history of channel engineering and inland navigation and related socio-natural floodplain sites, especially the interplay with floodplain environments and socio-economic strategies and the conflicts between parties with competing interests.
  • Recovery of the interaction of rights and conflict management by systematic and comparative approaches that study floodplain evolution and the associated fluvial societies.

Projects should explore new methods and approaches that are critical to understanding the transition to the Fluvial Anthroposphere.

Proposals must be written in English and submitted to the DFG by 15 March 2022. Please note that proposals can only be submitted via elan, the DFG’s electronic proposal processing system. To enter a new project within the existing Priority Programme, go to Proposal Submission – New Project/Draft Proposal – Priority Programmes and select “SPP 2361” from the current list of calls.

In preparing your proposal, please review the programme guidelines (form 50.05, section B) and follow the proposal preparation instructions (form 54.01). These forms can either be downloaded from our website or accessed through the elan portal.

Applicants must be registered in elan prior to submitting a proposal to the DFG. If you have not yet registered, please note that you must do so by 1 March 2022 to submit a proposal under this call; registration requests received after this time cannot be considered. You will normally receive confirmation of your registration by the next working day. Note that you will be asked to select the appropriate Priority Programme call during both the registration and the proposal process.

Within this framework, applications for “Temporary Positions for Principal Investigators” (Eigene Stelle) can be submitted as well. We particularly encourage female scholars to take on leadership roles and submit project proposals. Funding for cross-project workshops and annual meetings will be covered by the Priority Programme centrally.

Further Information

More information on the Priority Programme is available under:

The elan system can be accessed at:

DFG forms 50.05 and 54.01 can be downloaded at:

For scientific enquiries please contact the Priority Programme coordinator:

  • Professor Dr. Christoph Zielhofer
    Universität Leipzig
    Fakultät für Physik und Geowissenschaften
    Institut für Geographie
    Johannisallee 19 a
    04103 Leipzig
    phone +49 341 9732965

Questions on the DFG proposal process can be directed to: