Articles | Volume 9, issue 2
13 Mar 2009
 | 13 Mar 2009

Susceptibility versus resilience to mountain hazards in Austria - paradigms of vulnerability revisited

S. Fuchs

Abstract. The concept of vulnerability is pillared by multiple disciplinary theories underpinning either a technical or a social origin of the concept and resulting in a range of paradigms for either a qualitative or quantitative assessment of vulnerability. However, efforts to reduce susceptibility to hazards and to create disaster-resilient communities require intersections among these theories, since human activity cannot be seen independently from the environmental setting. Acknowledging different roots of disciplinary paradigms, issues determining structural, economic, institutional and social vulnerability are discussed with respect to mountain hazards in Austria. It is argued that structural vulnerability as originator results in considerable economic vulnerability, generated by the institutional settings of dealing with natural hazards and shaped by the overall societal framework. If vulnerability and its counterpart, resilience, is analysed and evaluated by using a comprehensive approach, a better understanding of the vulnerability-influencing parameters could be achieved, taking into account the interdependencies and interactions between the disciplinary foci. Thereby the overall aim of this paper is not to develop another integrative approach for vulnerability assessment, different approaches are rather applied by using a vulnerability-of-place criterion, and key issues of vulnerability are reconsidered aiming at a general illustration of the situation in a densely populated mountain region of Europe.