Structuring problems in sustainability science: The multi-level DPSIR framework

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Sustainability science needs approaches that allow for the integration of knowledge across disciplines and scales. This paper suggests an approach to conceptualize problems of unsustainability by embedding the Drivers-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) scheme within a multi-level institutional framework represented by Hagerstrand's system of nested domains. The proposed taxonomy helps to decipher and to better understand key casual chains and societal responses at the appropriate spatial levels for particular sustainability problem areas. To illustrate the scheme more concretely the example of recent problem-solving efforts for Baltic Sea eutrophication driven by Swedish agriculture is examined. The discussion focuses on how the scheme fulfills the four research strategy requirements within the field of sustainability science and how the scheme is distinct from alternative approaches. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • DPSIR, Hagerstrand, Eutrophication, Baltic Sea, Multi-level, Hierarchies, Sustainability science, Scale
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)479-488
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Publication categoryResearch