Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism (MuSIASEM)

Back to Flow analysis methods


The multi-scale integrated analysis of societal and ecosystem metabolism (MuSIASEM) method has been in development since the 1990s, mainly by one research group centred around Giampietro, Mayumi, and associated researchers (Gerber and Scheidel 2018). The concept and rationale behind this method have been described in detail (Giampietro, Mayumi, and Ramos-Martin 2009) and this method can be seen as an alternative to the MEFA approaches. However, there are a number of key differences with the MEFA accounting family.

Giampietro and colleagues approach metabolism with a broader and more integrated toolset. The focus is not exclusively on top-level material or energy flows, but there is also a strong emphasis on the economic and social components of the system. Furthermore, this method looks by default at multiple scales, “opening up” the black box that a system, such as a city can be seen as, to understand how these different levels relate to each other. MuSIASEM integrates both material and energy flows within a single method instead of developing separate methods for each. Finally, this method provides a multi-purpose grammar, instead of facilitating strictly defined guidelines or handbooks. In theory there is therefore more interpretative freedom for researchers to define their exact scope and indicators, but at the same time this makes it more difficult for new researchers to start using this method.

The MuSIASEM method can provide insights and indicators that are uncommon, if not impossible, to obtain using traditional MEFA approaches. These include, for instance, insights into how time is being used by the population, how energy consumption and GDP relate to each other, or the impact of economic development on land use.

Due to the deep level of analysis and unpacking of material and energy flows and socio-economic structures in a system, it is more difficult to approach the entirety of a national or local economy. Instead, most work has been done on particular resources inside an economy. Work on an urban scale has been limited. Examples include waste management in Naples (Chifari et al. 2017), land use in Shanghai (Lu et al. 2016), and more regional work including energy metabolism in Catalonia (Ramos-Martín et al. 2009). Historic studies are difficult to undertake due to the data requirements, so most studies have focused on contemporary economies (Gerber and Scheidel 2018).

Alias: this method was previously abbreviated as MSIASM.



Title Type Author(s) Year
Biophysical characterization and quantification of waste from the meat sector of the city of Quito: case study of the Quito Metropolitan Trace Company EMRAQ-EP Thesis Auz Rosero and Chérrez Gavilanes 2020
Characterizing the metabolic pattern of urban systems using MuSIASEM: The case of Barcelona Journal Article Pérez-Sánchez et al. 2019
A holistic framework for the integrated assessment of urban waste management systems Journal Article Chifari et al. 2018
Urban metabolism of megacities: A comparative analysis of Shanghai, Tokyo, London and Paris to inform low carbon and sustainable development pathways Journal Article Han et al. 2018
Development of a municipal solid waste management decision support tool for Naples, Italy Journal Article Chifari et al. 2017
Urban Metabolism of Three Cities in Jing-Jin-JiUrban Agglomeration, China: Using theMuSIASEM Approach Journal Article Xiaoyue Wang and Li 2017
Changes of human time and land use pattern in one mega city's urban metabolism: a multi-scale integrated analysis of Shanghai Journal Article Lu et al. 2016