(University of Natural Resources & Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU), Vienna, Austria)

Keywords: GIS, environmental history, landscape, historical sources, urban development

In a radical departure from usual historical accounts, we traced the natural and human-induced transformation processes of the Viennese landscape from the early 16th century to the present based on GIS reconstructions. The study was conducted in the two interdisciplinary research projects ENVIEDAN and URBWATER on the environmental history of the Viennese Danube and its tributaries. This paper describes the different types of data sources used for the GIS-based reconstructions, the underlying methodological approach and its limitations.
Several cornerstones provided the basis for reconstructing the historical landscape: (1) more than 1,000 historical maps and topographical views, of which ca. 220 were georeferenced; (2) numerous written sources from the 16th century onwards and a multitude of historical literature; (3) archaeological findings from the late 19th century onwards; (4) geological borehole data and hydrogeological information; and (5) the knowledge about morphological processes typical for the Danube River and its tributaries prior to regulation. We compiled the historical states of the Viennese landscape step-by-step going backwards in time. After one historical situation had been completed, we evaluated its relevance for the temporally younger situations and whether corrections would have to be made. This “regressive-iterative” approach allows for permanent critical revision of the reconstructed time segments already processed. The resulting 14 maps of the historical landscape from 1529 to 2010 provide a solid basis for interpreting the environmental conditions for Vienna’s urban development. In addition, the data are provided on the web-based GIS platform “Wien Kulturgut” for the general public.

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importance of interdiscplinary research and potential for informing the general public

The applied regressive-iterative GIS method based on different data sources and online access for the general public.

S. et al. (2013): Two steps back, one step forward: Reconstructing the dynamic Danube riverscape under human influence in Vienna. Water History, 5 (2), 121-143.
HOHENSINNER S. et al. (2013): Changes in water and land: the reconstructed Viennese riverscape 1500 to the present. Water History,
5 (2), 145-172.