EGU23-7991, updated on 30 May 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Conceptual models of drought risks for Europe: a step towards a systemic perspective on drought

Davide Cotti1, Anne-Sophie Sabino Siemons1, Gustavo Naumann2, Marthe Wens3, Hans de Moel3, Veit Blauhut4, Kerstin Stahl4, Lauro Rossi2, Willem Maetens5, Andrea Toreti5, and Michael Hagenlocher1
Davide Cotti et al.
  • 1United Nations University - Institute for Environment and Human Security, Bonn, Germany (
  • 2CIMA Research Foundation, Savona, Italy
  • 3Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 4University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
  • 5European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC), Ispra, Italy

In recent years, research on drought risk has expanded to include multiple types of drought hazards, various exposed elements and a multitude of factors that determine the vulnerability of a given system or sector. This has resulted in a call from the scientific community to adopt a systemic risk perspective on drought. However, a thorough understanding of how drought risks manifest, cascade and interact across different systems and sectors is still lacking, and methodological guidance on how to analyse and represent these interdependencies does not yet exist.  In order to explore these gaps, we have developed conceptual models of drought risks for key selected systems and sectors in the European Union. 

For each system and sector considered (rain fed and irrigated agricultural systems, forest ecosystems, freshwater ecosystems, public water supply, inland water transport and the energy sector), a conceptual model was constructed to depict how drivers and root causes interact to create drought risk. The models are based on the impact chains methodology and are informed by literature review and multiple expert consultations (including a series of validation workshops). Subsequently, the system-specific models were used to build an overarching conceptual model of the critical interdependencies that exist between all the systems and sectors considered. 

The analysis has revealed that, in each system, drought risks manifest through a complex web of interactions between drivers of risk, which are in part system-specific and in part shared across the systems considered. From this, multiple considerations for drought risk assessment and management can be derived. In particular, special attention should be placed in defining and representing what drought risk is in each system, as the underlying characteristics might greatly differ. Additionally, the use of conceptual models can constitute an important first step for risk assessment, as they contribute to addressing the complexity of drought risks. Finally, the existence of commonalities and interdependencies between systems implies that interventions can and must be designed so as to consider multiple systems at once, thus avoiding maladaptive solutions. In this sense, the conceptual models can serve as entry points for the identification of risk reduction and adaptation measures which go beyond the single-risk and single-sector perspective, thus contributing to a more systemic view on drought risk management and adaptation, as well as highlighting persisting knowledge gaps.

How to cite: Cotti, D., Sabino Siemons, A.-S., Naumann, G., Wens, M., de Moel, H., Blauhut, V., Stahl, K., Rossi, L., Maetens, W., Toreti, A., and Hagenlocher, M.: Conceptual models of drought risks for Europe: a step towards a systemic perspective on drought, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-7991,, 2023.