Prof. Dr. Ralf Seppelt

Head of Research Unit Ecosystem of the Future

Co-Head of Department Computational Landscape Ecology
Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
Permoserstr. 15
04318 Leipzig, Germany

Tel: +49 341 6025-5501

Ralf Seppelt (Prof. Dr.) studied applied mathematics at the Technical University Clausthal Zellerfeld, Germany, obtained his doctorate degree at the Technical University Braunschweig, Germany, in agroecology and systems analysis where he worked as research assistant and lecturer at Institute for Geoecology. After several research visits at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, Burlington and Maryland, USA, as well at the CSIRO in Canberra, Australia, he was appointed full professor for landscape ecology and Resource Economics at Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, where he lectures course on Environmental Modelling. He is head of the department for Computational Landscape Ecology. In the BMBF programme on "Sustainable Land Management" he coordinated the synthesis project GLUES “Global Assessment of Land Use Dynamics on Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Ecosystem Services”. His major research focus is land resources management based on integrated simulation and modelling systems. He thus is interested in the interactions and interrelationship of anthropheric and biospheric processes. This requires methodological developments in landscape ecology such as model integration, hybrid model systems and scales in space and time. He published various books and over 100 papers, see researcherID. For the Intergovernmental "Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecolosystem Services" (IPBES) he worked as lead author for the Global Assessment and currently is coordinating lead author for the Nexus Assessment


2011 Graduation from Helmholtz Academy on Science Management
2004 Habilitation, Venia legendi „Geoecology/Environmental Systems Analysis”
1997 Doctoral Degree „with distinction“, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Department Geography and Geoecology, Technical University Braunschweig, Germany
1994 Master in Applied Mathematics, Technical University Clausthal, Germany

Current Position(s)

2023 Research Fellow at Stellenbosch Centre for Advanced Studies (STIAS)
2022 Head of Research Unit “Ecosystem of the Future”
2004 Full professor for Landscape Ecology, Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany
2004 Head of Department for Computational Landscape Ecology at UFZ, Leipzig, Germany

Previous Positions

2014-2019 Visiting scholar at Depart. of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University (02/2019, 2 weeks*), Dept. of Geography, University Southampton (01/2017, 1 week*), Woods Institute on the Environment, Stanford University (10/2010, 11/2016, total 3 weeks*), Stockholm Resilience Centre (10/2014, 3 weeks*)
[*As there is no sabbatical program for UFZ scientist, I organized several shorter visits]
1997-2004 Research Assistant and Lecturer, Inst. for Geography and Geoecology, Technical University Braunschweig, Germany
1994-2004 Researcher at the Collaborative Research Centre 179, TU Braunschweig, Germany
03-07/2000 Research fellow at the Institute for Ecological Economics, Centre for Environmental Research, University Maryland, USA

Organisation of major Scientific Meetings

2013 Coordinator of final conference of the BMBF Research Program “Sustainable Land Management”, Berlin 17.-19.4.2013, 340 participants
2012 Host and coordinator of 6th International Congress on Environmental Modelling and Software. Managing Resources of a limited planet: Pathways and Visions under uncertainty. 1.-5. July 2012, congress centre KUBUS Leipzig, Germany. 430 participants


2004- Member of Scientific Technical Advisory Council of UFZ
2004- Member of Ph.D. promotion committee at Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
2012-2018 Founding Member of the German Centre on integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and speaker of its Graduate School yDiv

Reviewing and Science-Policy Activities

2016–2019 Lead-Author of the “Global Assessment” of the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES)
2012- Academic Advisory Council (Hochschulrat) Universität Hohenheim
2012-2018 National Science Foundation Germany (DFG), Commission of the Senate on Agroecosystem Research
2010-2011 Member of appointment committee for Scientific directorate, WSL, ETH Zurich, Swiss
2011 Review Panel Member Potsdam Institute for Climatic Impact Research (PIK)
2008- Associate Editor “Environmental Modelling and Software” and “Landscape Ecology”
2008- Journal Reviews Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, Basic and Applied Ecology, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, Ecology and Society, Ecological Economics, Environmental Science & Policy, Global Environmental Change, Landscape and Urban Planning, Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, Journal for Applied Ecology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Nature, Nature Communications, Nature Sustainability, Scientific Data, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Science

Memberships of Scientific Societies

2004-2018 Int. Soc. for Environmental Modelling & Software: founding member vice president
2018- Member of Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina for the Special Synthesis Report on “Biodiversity decline in Agricultural Landscapes”
2010- Member Ecological Society of America (ESA), Int. Assoc. for Landscape Ecology (IALE)
2008- Member of Research Networks “Global Land Project (GLP)”, and “Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS)”

Strategic Collaborations

Biodiversity Ecosystem functioning: Lucas Garibaldi, Universidad Nacional de Río Negro, Argentina; Michael Schmidt, CONABIO, Mexico; Yann Clough, Lund Univ., Sweden; Jessica Gurevitch, Stony Brooks Univ., USA; Gretchen Daily, Woods Inst., Univ. Stanford, USA, Tim Newbold Univ. College London, UK

Socio-Environmental Systems Analysis: Orjan Bodin, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden; Graeme Cumming, James Cook University, Australia; Reinette Biggs, Univ. South Africa; Guy Ziv, University of Leeds, UK; Jonathan Cramer, Margareth Palmer, Univ. Maryland, SESYNC, USA

Economics: Thomas Hertel, Purdue Univ., USA

Land use and resource appropriation: Claire Kremen, Navin Ramankutty, Univ. of British Columbia, Canada; Tomas Václavík, Univ. Olmuc, Czech Rep.; Peter Verburg, Vreije Universität Amsterdam, Netherlands; Felix Eigenbrot, Univ. Southampton, UK

Appendix: All on-going grants and submitted grants applications of the PI (Funding ID)

Having acquired a long-standing and in-depth understanding of human-environmental feedbacks at a regional scale, mostly with the scope on ecosystem service research [see most important references #1], in the recent years I apply that knowledge to global scale issues of human appropriation of natural resources. Together with my team we (a) identified global limitations of renewable resource production [2], developed and tested a novel approaches to map global socio-environmental systems with respect to land management [3] and tested new approaches to assess ecosystem service valuations at a global scale [4, 12]. Especially the study on the global value of pollination services [12] gained high attraction inside but also outside academia, was cited and reprinted in various policy documents (such the Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) of the as IPBES Pollination Assessment) as well as utilized by NGOs (Greenpeace).

Given these results, I aimed at (a) conceptually understanding the limitations human societies are faced with, given the decline in biodiverity [5,6]; (b) established global scale synthesis studies to obtain data and information on that feedbacks [7] including best practice recommendations to support meta-analysis studies [8]; and (c) investigated how emerging remote sensing can support such research [9]. We also started to develop the first model application that consistently analyses global agroeconomy, agricultral productivity as well as its impacts on biodiversity [11]. Beyond this, I started to work on the societal part of human environment interaction and its model development [10,13].

Finally, I was and still am concerned about the way how we conduct science and how the scientific system is slowly transitioning in a globalized world [14]. In that paper, I layout my vision of a less accelerating but higher quality science.

Most important publications (1st or last author, citations numbers according to Scopus®, Aug. 8th, 2020)
  1. Seppelt R, Dormann CF, Eppink FV, Lautenbach S, Schmidt S. 2011. A quantitative review of ecosystem service studies: Approaches, shortcomings and the road ahead. Journal of Applied Ecology 48(3): 630–636. (569 citations)
  2. Seppelt R, AM Manceur, J Liu, EP Fenichel, S Klotz. 2014. Synchronized peak-rate years of global resources use. Ecology and Society 19(4):50. 10.5751/ES-07039-190450 (42 citations)
  3. Václavík T, Lautenbach S, Kuemmerle T, Seppelt R. 2013. Mapping global land system archetypes. Global Environmental Change. 23:1637–1647. 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.09.004 (81 citations)
  4. Schmidt S, Manceur AM, Seppelt R. 2016. Uncertainty of Monetary Valued Ecosystem Services – Value Transfer Functions for Global Mapping. PLOS ONE. 11:e0148524 (26 citations)
  5. Seppelt R, Beckmann M, Ceauşu S, Cord AF, Gerstner K, Gurevitch J, Kambach S, Klotz S, Mendenhall C, Phillips HRP, Powell K, Verburg PH, Verhagen W, Winter M, Newbold T. 2016. Harmonizing Biodiversity Conservation and Productivity in the Context of Increasing Demands on Landscapes. BioScience. 66(10): 890–896. 10.1093/biosci/biw004 (32 citations)
  6. Seppelt R, Arndt C, Beckmann M, Martin EA, Hertel T. 2020. Deciphering the biodiversity-production mutualism in the global food security debate. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 10.1016/j.tree.2020.06.012 (in print)
  7. Beckmann M, Gerstner K, Akin-Fajiye M, Ceaușu S, Kambach S, Kinlock NL, Phillips HRP, Verhagen W, Gurevitch J, Klotz S, Newbold T, Verburg PH, Winter M, Seppelt R. 2019. Conventional land-use intensification reduces species richness and increases production: A global meta-analysis. Global Change Biology, 10.1111/gcb.14606 (13 citations)
  8. Gerstner K, Moreno-Mateos D, Gurevitch J, Beckmann M, Kambach S, Jones HP, Seppelt R. 2017. Will your paper be used in a meta-analysis? Make the reach of your research broader and longer lasting. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 8(6):777–784. 10.1111/2041-210X.12758 (45 citations)
  9. Cord AF, Brauman KA, Chaplin-Kramer R, Huth A, Ziv G, Seppelt R. 2017. Priorities to Advance Monitoring of Ecosystem Services Using Earth Observation. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 32(6):416–428. 10.1016/j.tree.2017.03.003 (43 citations)
  10. Seppelt R, Cumming, GS. 2016. Humanity’s distance to nature: time for environmental austerity? Landscape Ecology  10.1007/s10980-016-0423-5 (10 citations)
  11. Zabel F, Delzeit R, Schneider JM, Seppelt R, Mauser W, Václavík T. 2019. Global Impacts of Future Cropland Expansion and Intensification on Agricultural Markets and Biodiversity. Nature Communications 10 (1): 2844. 10.1038/s41467-019-10775-z (15 citations)
  12. Lautenbach S, Seppelt R, Liebscher J, Dormann CF. 2012. Spatial and Temporal Trends of Global Pollination Benefit. PLoS ONE 7(4), e35954. 10.1371/journal.pone.0035954 (156 citations)
  13. Cumming GS, Epstein G, Anderies JM, Apetrei CI, Baggio J, Bodin Ö, Chawla S, Clements HS, Cox M, Egli L, Gurney GG, Lubell M, Magliocca N, Morrison TH, Müller B, Seppelt R, Schlüter M, Unnikrishnan H, Villamayor-Tomas S, Weible CM. 2020. Advancing understanding of natural resource governance: A post-Ostrom research agenda. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 44: 26–34. 10.1016/j.cosust.2020.02.005 (1 citation)
  14. Seppelt R, Beckmann M, Václavík T & Volk M. 2018. The Art of Scientific Performance. Trends in Ecology & Evolution  10.1016/j.tree.2018.08.003 (2 citations)

Publications Summary

(1995-2020, last update 3/2021)
Peer reviewed publications Web of Science Scopus Google Schoolar
Number of publications 158 157  
Citations total/without self-citation 8643 / 8317 9518 / NA 12267 / NA
Average citations per document 64,9    
Highly cited papers 4    
h-index 49 51 60
Number of co-authors   784  

Publication List


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2023 (8)

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2022 (9)

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2021 (11)

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2020 (12)

2019 (15)

2018 (11)

2017 (14)

2016 (9)

2015 (8)

2014 (12)

2015 (8)

2014 (12)

2013 (9)

2012 (12)

2014 (12)

2013 (9)

2012 (12)

2011 (4)

2010 (7)

2009 (3)

2008 (3)

  • Alcamo, J., Andreae, M., Akhtar-Schuster, M., Borchardt, D., Callies, U., Cramer, W., Görg, C., Hansjürgens, B., Heimann, M., Helbig, G., Jacob, D., Jürgens, N., Karte, J., Kalko, E., Kaltschmitt, M., Klepper, G., Klotz, S., Kraas, F., Kremer, H., Kroll, S., Lelieveld, J., Lemke, P., Marotzke, J., Mauser, W., Schulz, M., Seppelt, R., Stoll, P.-T., Teutsch, G., Vlek, P., Wefer, G., Weisser, W., von Storch, H., Zacharias, S. (2008):
    Global change research in Germany 2008
    In: Höll, B., Mauser, W. (eds.)
    German National Committee on Global Change Research (NKGCF), München, 45 pp.
  • Crout, N., Kokkonen, T., Jakeman, A.J., Norton, J.P., Newham, L.T.H., Anderson, R., Assaf, H., Croke, B.F.W., Gaber, N., Gibbons, J., Holzworth, D., Mysiak, J., Reichl, J., Seppelt, R., Wagener, T., Whitfield, P. (2008):
    Good modelling practice
    In: Jakeman, A.J., Voinov, A.A., Rizzoli, A.E., Chen, S.H. (eds.)
    Environmental modelling, software and decision support. State of the art and new perspective
    Developments in Integrated Environmental Assessment 3
    Elsevier, Amsterdam, p. 15 - 29 10.1016/S1574-101X(08)00602-9
  • Zacharias, S., Dietrich, P., Vogel, H.-J., Seppelt, R., Borchardt, D., Klotz, S., Messner, F., Teutsch, G. (2008):
    TERENO - Methodical approach for the implementation of a terrestrial observatory for environmental research in Central Germany. Theme B: Functions & values of soil-water systems; understanding of proccesses
    ConSoil 2008. Proceedings of the 10th International UFZ-Deltares/TNO Conference on Soil-Water Systems in cooperation with Provincia di Milano, Italy, 3-6 June 2008
    Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Leipzig, 85 - 89

2007 (5)

2006 (7)

2005 (5)

2004 (1)

2003 (4)

2002 (5)

2001 (1)

2000 (1)

1999 (1)


My lectures and courses are always driven by the strong belief, that scientific progress and innovation are possible only, if recent research is presented in education and by the fact that data gathering in field, conceptional modelling as well as mathematical modelling and numerical analysis needs to be thought in an overall concept. Thus I always try to show my students in science its always a challenging question to start with, to continue with data collection and finally apply a modelling exercise for analysis. Only this enables us to assess simulation results correctly and enables us to teach interdisciplinary research.

Lectures (including practical exersice)

  • Introduction to computer science.
  • Geographic information systems (GIS).
  • Practical Introduction to programming languages (C, Mathematica)
  • Introduction in Ecosystem Modelling: Lecture and practical exercise with modelling tools.
  • Numeric of complex environmental simulation models: Lecture and practical exercise.

Seminars (including practical exercise)

  • Applications of Ecosystem Modelling: Practical exercise and seminar lecture based on recently published journal papers
Mentoring Summary (2004-2020) male/female
Directly mentoring Ph.D. students (1st reviewer) 10/8
Member in committee of Ph.D. students (2nd reviewer) 5/7
Mentoring postdocs (3-year appointments or longer) 11/6
- From those appointed to professorships 4/3
Committee member of professorship appointments 6

Professorship appointees of colleagues under my supervision

  • Prof. Dr. Anna Cord. Affiliation from 2019 onwards: Professur für Modellierung in der Landschatsökologie, TU Dresden
  • Dr. Nina Schwarz. Affiliation from 2016 onwards: Assistant professor in the faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) of the University of Twente, The Netherlands.
  • Prof. Dr. Sven Lautenbach. Affiliation from 2012: Assistant Professor for Landuse Modelling and Ecosystem Services, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-University of Bonn, Insitute for Geodesy and Geoinformation Bonn, Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Dagmar Haase. Affiliation from 2009 onwards: Professor for Landscape Ecology, Department of Geography, Humboldt University Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Carsten Dormann (2002-2011): Present affiliation: Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Department of Forest Biometry, Freiburg, Germany

Ph.D. thesis/Doctorate degree, Theses completed

  • Christophe Dominik (2012-2018): The effects of surrounding landscapes on the biocontrol-production function in rice dominated agroecosystems. Matin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg.
  • Lukas Egli (2021): Stabelazing agricultural system through diversity. University Potsdam, co-supervised with Prof. Dr. Volker Grimm
  • Veronika Liebelt (2012-2019): Explaing pattern of of urban green, housing prices and inner urban migration using an agent based model. Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
  • Stefan Schmidt (2011-2017): Global distribution of ecosystem services and the uncertainty of the valuation. Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
  • Madhumitha Jaganmohan (2012-2017): The influence of urban form on urban ecosystem services and biodiversity. Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
  • Johannes Förster (2011-2017): Assessing ecosystem services across multiple scales. Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
  • Markus Meyer (2012-2016): Environmental assessment of different feedstocks for solid biofuels. Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
  • Katharina Gerstner (2011-2016): Global effects of land use change to species distribution and global biodiversity. Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
  • Nadja Kabisch (2008-2011): Heterogene urbane Bevölkerungsdynamik in Europa Identifizierung aktueller Prozessverläufe und ihrer Triebkräfte auf verschiedenen räumlichen Ebenen im Modellzusammenhang. Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
  • Christian Schweizer (2006-2009): Modeling drivers and socio-environmental impacts of regional land-use change: Integrating new processes into the SITE modeling framework. Martin-Luther Univesity Halle-Wittenberg
  • Stefan Liersch (2006-2009): Development of a GIS-based monitoring and information system to support adaptive management. Martin-Luther Univesity Halle-Wittenberg
  • Michael Strohbach (2007-2010): Impact of Urban Patterns on ecosystem function and services. Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
  • Maik Renner (2008-2011): Land use effects and climate impacts on evapotranspiration and catchment water balance. TU Dresden
  • Annelie Holzkämper (2004-2007): Spatial optimization of land-use patterns with respect to habitat functions. Martin-Luther Univesity Halle-Wittenberg
  • Christine Vogel (1999-2002): Räumlich explizites Modell auf Basis von Habitateignung und Populationsdynamik für Carabiden. TU Braunschweig

Science-Policy, Scientific Advisory Bodies

  • Lead Author of the Global Assessment of the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) (2016-2019)
  • Member of Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina for the special synthesis report on Biodiversity decline in Agricultural Landscapes
  • National Science Foundation Germany (DFG), Commission of the Senate on Agroecosystem Research (2012-2018)

Review Panels

  • Hochschulrat Universität Hohenheim (2012-2016, 2016 - ongoing)
  • Scientific Advisory Board CIRS, Universität Kassel (2012 - 2016)
  • Evaluation Committee of Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research (PIK), (2007)