Trade-offs along pathways towards multifunctional agricultural landscapes

Combine harvester in a cereal field (© André Künzelmann/UFZ)

With less than 0.8 %, German agriculture only contributes a small share to the country's gross domestic product. But with over 50 % it accounts for the largest share of land use in Germany. In Germany and Europe, especially in productive agricultural landscapes, today's agriculture is oriented towards monofunctional management. This means that food, fodder and biomass are produced in large quantities, but little consideration is given to other ecosystem services (e.g. flood protection, climate regulation or landscape aesthetics) and biodiversity. In addition, there is the need to adapt to the increasingly noticeable impacts of climate change. Accordingly, a transformation of agriculture ("Agrarwende") is being called for by societal and political actors. The aim is to make agricultural landscapes increasingly multifunctional, i.e. maintain or promote the diverse functions of agro-ecosystems and the ecosystem services they provide.

Objectives of AgriScape

The junior research group "AgriScape: Trade-offs along pathways towards multifunctional agricultural landscapes" studies the trade-offs that arise in the context of this transformation. Such trade-offs can arise, for example, due to different expectations of societal groups regarding the use of landscapes. A prominent example is the production of cheap food through intensive agriculture on the one hand versus nature conservation and improvement of groundwater quality on the other.

Using the example of a very productive agricultural landscape in central Germany, the project will identify such trade-offs in order to determine relevant and socially acceptable pathways for a successful transformation of agriculture in Germany.

The project focuses on two research questions:

  1. Which trade-offs are likely to arise in the transformation to multifunctional agricultural landscapes under climate change?
  2. How can policy instruments be designed to minimize these trade-offs?

In order to answer these questions, AgriScape follows an inter- and transdisciplinary approach, linking contributions from environmental economics, behavioural science and landscape ecology. Furthermore, various stakeholder groups, e.g. farmers, nature conservationists, but also society at large, will be involved throughout the entire duration of the project in order to ensure a high degree of societal relevance.

Social–Ecological Research

AgriScape is a junior research group funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (funding programme Social–Ecological Research, SÖF) and is based at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Leipzig. The planned duration of the project is 2022–2027.