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Featured publications

Graphical Abstract

Divergent glacier area and elevation changes across the Tibetan Plateau in the early 21st century.

Zhang, C., Ran, W., Fang, S., Hu, S., Beckmann, M., Volk, M. (2023): Anthropocene. 44, 100419.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ancene.2023.100419

Assessing glacier change and analyzing its influencing factors are essential for developing climate change mitigation and adaptation measures for a given region. Here, we provide a spatially explicit assessment and quantification of glacier changes in the early 21st century on the Tibetan Plateau at individual glacier and basin scales. In addition, this study quantitatively assesses the influencing factors of glacier area changes concerning topographic conditions, glacier morphology and climatic factors, which substantially improves the understanding of glacier response patterns in the context of climate warming in the 21st century.

Towards adaptive water management - Optimizing river water diversion at the basin scale under future environmental conditions.

Derepasko, D., Witing, F., Peñas, F.J., Barquín, J., Volk, M. (2023). Water 15 (18), art. 3289.

DOI: 10.3390/w15183289

Our study exemplifies the application of the optimization modelling for water diversion management at the basin scale. It hence provides new insights on the implications of the spatio-temporal dimensions relevant for implementing the adaptive water management at such spatial scales.

Applying generic landscape-scale models of natural pest control to real data: Associations between crops, pests and biocontrol agents make the difference.

Bonato, M., Martin, E.A., Cord, A.F., Seppelt, R., Beckmann, M., Strauch, M. (2023). Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 342 , art. 108215.

DOI: 10.1016/j.agee.2022.108215

Having reliable models representing the relationship between landscape structure, field management and natural pest control can help in deciding which management practices should be used and where, and consequently can help reduce pesticide use. Here, we compared the resulting values of an existing generic model with available field measurements of natural pest control. The results highlighted the importance of tailoring models towards specific associations between crops, pests and biocontrol agents and of including local level factors.

Riparian reforestation on the landscape scale – Navigating trade-offs among agricultural production, ecosystem functioning and biodiversity.

Witing, F., Forio, M.A.E., Burdon, F.J., Mckie, B., Goethals, P., Strauch, M., Volk, M., (2022). J. Appl. Ecol. 59 (6), 1456 - 1471.

DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.14176

The study demonstrates the potential of landscape optimization algorithms to support the management and design of multifunctional stream–riparian networks. We identified riparian reforestation solutions for the Zwalm River (Belgium) that minimized trade-offs between specific natural values and societal needs. The spatially explicit approach allows for an integration into spatial planning and can inform policy design and implementation.

Grassland type and seasonal effects have a bigger influence on plant functional and taxonomical diversity than prairie dog disturbances in semiarid grasslands.

Rodriguez-Barrera, M.G., Kühn, I., Estrada-Castillón, E., Cord, A.F., (2022). Ecol. Evol. 12 (7), e9040.

DOI: 10.1002/ece3.9040

Prairie dogs (Cynomys sp.) are considered ecosystem engineers due to their grazing and burrowing activities. Here, we compared how plant taxonomical diversity, functional diversity metrics, and community-weighted trait means (CWM) respond to the disturbance of the Mexican prairie dog (C. mexicanus) across grassland types and seasons in a priority conservation semiarid ecosystem. The study increases knowledge on the risks and vulnerability of semiarid grasslands which will be critical to understand future dynamics under climate change conditions.

Landscape context and farm characteristics are key to farmers' adoption of agri-environmental schemes.

Paulus, A., Hagemann, N., Baaken, M.C., Roilo, S., Alarcón-Segura, V., Cord, A.F., Beckmann, M., (2022). Land Use Pol. 121 , art. 106320.

DOI: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2022.106320

Agri-environmental schemes (AES) are important tools for fostering sustainable agricultural practices. In this paper, we show that the adoption and allocation of these schemes in a case study area in Saxony are driven by farm characteristics as well as landscape context. Our finding that AES are typically placed on agriculturally marginal fields suggests that their uptake is driven by economic rather than environmental considerations.

Response of endangered bird species to land-use changes in an agricultural landscape in Germany. 

Jungandreas, A., Roilo, S., Strauch, M., Václavík, T., Volk, M., Cord, A.F., (2022). Reg. Envir. Chang. 22 (1), art. 19.

DOI: 10.1007/s10113-022-01878-3

By modelling the impact of three stakeholder-supported land-use scenarios (business-as-usual, land sharing, land sparing) on bird habitats the paper confirms that balancing the different, often contrasting habitat requirements of multiple species is a key challenge in conservation and landscape management. Land sharing, which local stakeholders identified as the most desirable scenario, is a promising strategy for the conservation of endangered birds in agricultural landscapes like our study region (Middle Mulde River Basin, Germany).
Graphical abstract

Considering scale within optimization procedures for water management decisions: balancing environmental flows and human needs.

Derepasko, D., Guillaume, J.H.A., Horne, A.C., Volk, M., Martin (2021): Environ. Modell. Softw. 139 , art. 104991.

DOI: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2021.104991

Gain and loss of intensive grassland patches

Combining biophysical optimization with economic preference analysis for agricultural land-use allocation.

Kaim, A., Bartkowski, B., Lienhoop, N., Schröter-Schlaack, C., Volk, M., Strauch, M., (2021): Ecol. Soc. 26 (1), art. 9.

DOI: 10.5751/ES-12116-260109

By integrating preference information into the biophysical optimization this paper reduces the usually large set of Pareto-optimal solutions and thus facilitates further stakeholder-based analyses. The explorative study provides an example of how socioeconomic data and biophysical models can be combined to support decision making and the development of land-use policies.

Crisis-induced disruptions in place-based social-ecological research – an opportunity for redirection.

Hermans, K., Berger, E., Biber-Freudenberger, L., Bossenbroek, L., Ebeler, L., Groth, J., Hack, J., Hanspach, J., Hintz, K.S., Kimengsi, J.N., Kwong, Y.M.C., Oakes, R., Pagogna, R., Plieninger, T., Sterly, H., van der Geest, K., van Vliet, J., Wiederkehr, C., (2021). GAIA 30 (2), 72 - 76.

DOI: 10.14512/gaia.30.2.3

Fieldwork in place-based research can be disrupted by various threats, such as natural and global health hazards as well as political conflicts. The current COVID-19 pandemic has shown how these threats can drastically affect social-ecological research activities such as those in our project in Ethiopia. In this paper, we discuss the need for adaptive research designs while also providing an opportunity for a structural shift towards a more sustainable and inclusive research landscape.
Biodiversity–Production Mutualism (BPM)

Deciphering the biodiversity-production mutualism in the global food security debate.

Seppelt, R., Arndt, C., Martin, E. A., Beckmann, M. & Hertel, T. W. (2020). Trends In Ecology & Evolution.

DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2020.06.012

Biodiversity underpins our life support system and provides of stable and healthy food: Here we suggest how integrated assessment models should take this into account to provide balanced assessment of food provisioning. By unpacking the link between ecosystem service and biodiversity research for managing agricultural landscapes we suggest how performance of agriculture production should be measure, using Green Total Factor Productivity.
Figure. 1. Left: Location map showing the administrative regions of the country and the…

Deciphering interwoven drivers of environment-related migration–A multisite case study from the Ethiopian highlands.

Groth, J., Ide, T., Sakdapolrak, P., Kassa, E., & Hermans, K., (2020). Global Environmental Change, 63, 102094.

DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2020.102094

Environment-related migration is a process driven by multiple drivers at different scales and little is known about which contextual factors are most relevant and how they interact. In this paper we shed light on this issue by conducting an in-depth qualitative, yet multisite and medium-N study of farming households in the northern Ethiopian highlands. We utilized qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) – a novel approach in the research field – to decipher interwoven micro- and
mesolevel migration drivers. Our findings reveal that migrant networks in combination with migration abilities, rather than commonly cited push factors, are far more important drivers of environment-related migration at the household level.
Illustration of the conceptual framework aligning agent-based modeling with multi-objective land-use allocation (ALABAMA).

Aligning agent-based modelling with multi-objective land-use allocation: Identification of policy gaps and feasible pathways to biophysically optimal landscapes.

Bartkowski, B., Beckmann, M., Drechsler, M., Kaim, A., Liebelt, V., Müller, B., Witing, F. & Strauch, M., (2020). Frontiers in Environmental Science, 8, 103.

DOI: 10.3389/fenvs.2020.00103

The paper is a result of the POF3 core project ALABAMA (ALigning Agent-BAsed Modeling With Multi-Objective Land-Use Allocation). Here, scientists from different departments (CLE/OESA/OEKON) developed an approach to explore the feasibility of biophysically optimal landscapes and the relevance of policies tailored to environmental and socio-economic objectives. The approach was successfully tested for a virtual watershed. The next step needs to be a real-world application, perhaps within POF4.
Twelve types of assumptions in four domains contribute to uncertainties, incompleteness, biases or misconceptions of ecosystem service assessments. These, in turn, can have impacts on the success of conservation decisions and ecosystem management and use informed by these assessments

Assumptions in ecosystem service assessments: Increasing transparency for conservation.

Schröter, M., Crouzat, E., Hölting, L., Massenberg, J., Rode, J., Hanisch, M., Kabisch, N., Palliwoda, J., Priess, J.A., Seppelt, R. & Beckmann, M., (2020). Ambio.

DOI: 10.1007/s13280-020-01379-9

Ecosystem service assessments depend on complex multi-disciplinary methods and rely on a number of assumptions which reduce complexity. We synthesised 12 prevalent types of assumptions in ecosystem service assessments that include assumptions on data collection, mapping, on socio-economic valuation and about using assessment results for decision-making. We recommend future assessments to increase transparency about assumptions, and to test and validate them and their potential consequences on assessment reliability.
Map of the city of Leipzig and study sites in Leipzig within a 5 km radius from the city centre. We assessed ecosystem service use in 18 urban parks (green) and 18 urban brownfields (brown) with varying tree cover. Left column: Location of Leipzig in Germany, followed by examples of green brownfields with low, medium, high tree cover (from top to bottom). Map source: ©OpenStreetMap & contributors; Photos: J. Palliwoda

How do the green components of urban green infrastructure influence the use of ecosystem services? Examples from Leipzig, Germany. 

Palliwoda J, E Banzhaf, J Priess, (2020). Landscape Ecol.

DOI: 10.1007/s10980-020-01004-w

Increasing urbaninzation leads to an increasing importance of high quality urban green infrastructure (UGI) providing ecosystem services. This study analyses the influence of tree cover and other green parameters like species richness on ecosystem service use in urban parks and green brownfields in the city of Leipzig. Results from the study highlight how vegetation or green structures of UGI can be employed to steer its use and therefore contribute to its resilient design and management.
Deutschlandkarte Landbedeckung. Der Algorithmus identifiziert 19 verschiedene Feldfruchtarten mit einer Genauigkeit von 88 Prozent.

Introducing APiC for regionalised land cover mapping on the national scale using Sentinel-2A imagery. 

Sebastian Preidl, Maximilian Lange, Daniel Doktor, (2020).Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 240, Article 111673.

DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2020.111673

APiC is a novel adaptable pixel-based compositing and classification approach specially designed for the use of high resolution spatio-temporal space-borne data. Overcoming the obstacle of frequent cloud coverage in optical remote sensing data is essential for monitoring dynamic land surface processes from space. For that reason, we developed a data-driven classification approach that uses multiple prediction models to dynamically account for cloud coverage at pixel level. APiC is therefore well suited to be applied in regions with different weather conditions, species composition and phenology. The capability of this method is demonstrated by mapping 19 land cover classes across Germany’s agricultural area for the year 2016 based on Sentinel-2A data. The overall accuracy is about 88%. In addition to land cover, APiC allows the mapping of corresponding model performance for each classified pixel.
Non-dominated solutions of an unconstrained and a constrained patch-level…

Constraints in multi-objective optimization of land use allocation – repair or penalize?

Strauch, M., A.F. Cord, C. Pätzold, S. Lautenbach, A. Kaim, C. Schweitzer, R. Seppelt, M. Volk, (2019). Environmental Modelling & Software.

DOI: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2019.05.003

Combining simulation models and multi-objective optimization can help solving complex land use allocation problems by considering multiple, often competing demands on landscapes, such as agriculture, (drinking) water provision, or biodiversity conservation. The search for optimal land use allocations has to result in feasible solutions satisfying “real-world” constraints. We here introduce a generic and readily applicable tool to integrate user-specific spatial models (e.g. assessing different ecosystem services) for a Constrained Multi-objective Optimization of Land use Allocation (CoMOLA). The tool can handle basic land use conversion constraints by either a newly and specifically developed method to repair infeasible solutions or by penalizing constraint violation. CoMOLA was systematically tested for different levels of complexity using a virtual landscape and simple ecosystem service and biodiversity models. Our study shows that using repair mechanisms seems to be more effective in exploring the feasible solution space while penalizing constraint violation likely results in infeasible solutions.
CoMOLA is a product of the POF III program: It has been successfully applied within our EU BiodivERsA project TALE to optimize the allocation of land use and agri-environmental measures ( Verhagen 2018 et al. ) It is a core element of ongoing integrated research within IP12 (e.g. core project "Multi-objective agent-based land use allocation") and will also be applied in upcoming projects, such as OPTAIN (EU H2020).
Locations of sites included in the meta‐analysis. (a) Sites of the 449 cases (292 for species richness and 157 for yield) that were extracted from 115 studies (see Appendix S12 for a complete list of references). At each site data on species richness and yield in response to conventional land‐use intensification was collected. (b) Illustrates the distribution of sites and cases across climate zones in a Whitacker plot. If several cases were located at the same sites, the points are overlaid and thus darker

Conventional land-use intensification reduces species richness and increases production: A global meta-analysis.

Beckmann, M. et al. (2019). Global Change Biology.

DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14606

The exploitation of farmland is being intensified with a focus to raising yields. The degree to which yields actually increase as a result and the extent of the simultaneous loss of biological diversity have to date been under-researched factors. An international team of scientists led by the UFZ has now evaluated data from worldwide research in which both yield and biodiversity were examined before and after intensification measures.
Atlas of Ecosystem Services

Atlas of Ecosystem Services: Drivers, Risks, and Societal Responses.

Schröter, M., A. Bonn, S. Klotz, R. Seppelt, C. Baessler (eds., 2019). Springer, New York, 414 pages.

ISBN: 978-3-318-96229-0

The “Atlas of Ecosystem Services“ contains 60 succinct chapters which deliver a comprehensive overview on the risks to sustained provision of ecosystem services. More than 260 authors, among them UFZ colleagues form 16 departments, have contributed to the book. Global and regional case studies shed light on the impacts of land use change, climate change and socio-economic drivers on ecosystem services, and their related (land use) conflicts. Furthermore, policy instruments and management options to address these risks are presented.

The art of scientific performance. 

Seppelt, R., Beckmann, M., Václavík, T., Volk, M., (2018).Trends Ecol. Evol. 33 (11), 805 - 809.

DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2018.08.003

Being not for quite some time in science in various roles as authors, reviewers, supervisors and project coordinators and recognizing a vast diversity of outlets on the so called "scientific crises“ we felt it is time for a perspective on that tipic entitle "The Art of Scientific Performance“.
Geographical distribution of the 63 reviewed studies.

Environmental change, adaptation strategies and the relevance of migration in Sub-Saharan drylands.

Charlotte Wiederkehr, Michael Beckmann, Kathleen Hermans, (2018). Environ. Res. Lett. 13 113003

DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aae6de/meta

In this paper, we systematically synthesise case study data on human adaptation behaviour in the context of environmental change covering more than 9,700 rural households in Sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, the role and relative significance of migration as an adaptation strategy is assessed. The results show that measures related to crop, livestock, soil and water management are the most common, but also indicate the relevance of different forms of migration which were reported by about 23% of the households under study.
(From Lausch et al., 2018)
From Lausch et al., 2018

Under-standing and assessing vegetation health by in situ species and remote-sensing approaches

Lausch, A., Bastian, O., Klotz, S., Leita o, P.J., Jung, A., Rocchini, D., Schaepman, M.E., Skidmore, A.K., Tischendorf, L., Knapp, S., (2018). Methods Ecol. Evol. 9 (8), 1799 - 1809.

DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.13025

We hereby provide an overview of in situ species approaches, that is, the biological, the phylogenetic, and the morphological species concept, as well as an overview of the remote-sensing spectral trait/spectral trait variations concept to monitor the status of vegetation health and diversity (VDH) as well as processes of stress, disturbances, and resource limitations affecting VHD. The approaches are compared with re-gard to their suitability for monitoring vegetation health and diversity, and their advantages, disadvantages, potential, and requirements for being linked are discussed.
Flowchart of a structured search for suitable optimization methods

A review of multi-criteria optimization techniques for agricultural land use allocation.

Kaim, A., Cord, A.F., Volk, M. (2018). Environ. Modell. Softw. 105, 79-93

DOI: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2018.03.031

The paper reviews optimization techniques for multi-criteria land use allocation problems with a focus on agricultural landscapes. The review also addresses constraint handling, stakeholder integration and trade-off analysis. Furthermore, a structured guideline for selecting appropriate optimization methods is proposed.
Overview of the four-step regression analysis in the study

Revealing preferences for urban green spaces: a scale-sensitive hedonic pricing analysis for the city of Leipzig.

Liebelt, V., Bartke, S., Schwarz, N., (2018). Ecol. Econ. 146 , 536 – 548

DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2017.12.006

The value of urban green spaces (UGS) is recognized as an important issue for real estate developers as much as for urban planners, since UGS influence housing prices and the attractiveness of locations and neighborhoods. Decisions related to UGS are made on different spatial scales, which have not yet been distinguished in hedonic studies. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the scale dependency of UGS values based on revealed preferences. We propose to apply a stepwise scale-sensitive hedonic pricing analysis to residential rental units in Leipzig, Germany

Optimizing the allocation of agri-environment measures to navigate the trade-offs between ecosystem services, biodiversity and agricultural production    .

Verhagen, W., van der Zanden, E.H., Strauch, M., van Teeffelen, A.J.A., Verburg, P.H., (2018). Environ. Sci. Policy 84 , 186 - 196

DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2018.03.013

For the intensively-used Kromme Rijn area in the Netherlands, we optimized the allocation of agri-environment measures (linear elements, organic farming and set-aside) with regard to four objectives: (1) pasture production, (2) orchard production, (3) habitat suitability for the Great Crested Newt and (4) landscape aesthetics. The study illustrates trade-offs among the objectives but also reveals a remarkable potential for improving each of the different objectives at the same time and identifies priority areas for implementing agri-environment measures. This is the first application of CoMOLA , a tool for Constrained Multi-objective Optimization of Land use Allocation developed at our department.
The four major research objectives of studies on ES relationships.

Towards systematic analyses of ecosystem service trade-offs and synergies: main concepts, methods and the road ahead.

Cord, A., B. Bartkowski, M. Beckmann, A. Dittrich, K. Hermans, A. Kaim, N. Lienhoop, K. Locher-Krause, J. Priess, C. Schröter-Schlaack, N. Schwarz, R. Seppelt, M. Strauch, T. Vaclavik & M. Volk (2017). Ecosystem Services.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.07.012

This paper emerged from a series of monthly meetings (“Journal Club”, held between June 2015 and March 2016) among 15 colleagues from the departments CLE and OEKON and tells you most of the things that you might want to know about ecosystem services relationships. By synthesizing the growing body of literature on this topic, we identify four main study objectives of such analyses, describe the key concepts, including viewpoints of different disciplines, and highlight the major challenges that need to be addressed. To help guiding researchers towards more systematic analyses of ES trade-offs and synergies, we conclude with an outlook on suggested future research priorities.
Study area location in South America

Spatio-temporal change of ecosystem services as a key to understand natural resource utilization in Southern Chile. Regional Environmental Change.

Locher-Krause, K.E., S. Lautenbach & M. Volk (2017). Regional Environmental Change.

DOI: 10.1007/s10113-017-1180-y

This study quantifies six ecosystem services linked to forest ecosystems over six temporal periods in Southern Chile. Our results show a high spatial and temporal variability of ecosystem service supply in the three main geomorphological units. A strong increase of plantation production (Coastal Range and Central Valley) as well as of forest recreation services over time (Coastal and Andes ranges) was observed. Our recommendations for landscape management are (i) an increase of buffer strips to reduce diffuse emissions into the rivers and to enhance ecological connectivity, (ii) an increase of protected areas in the Central Valley, and (iii) a rethinking of the role of exotic forest plantations.
Conceptual Flow Paths of Water between the Most Important Spatial Objects in SWAT+. AQU, aquifer; CHA, channel; HRU, hydrologic response unit; LSU, landscape unit; PND, pond; RES, reservoir; LAT, lateral flow; OVB, overbank flow; RHG, recharge; SUR, surface runoff; TOT, total flow.

Introduction to SWAT+, a completely restructured version of the Soil and Water Assessment Tool.

Bieger, K., J.G. Arnold, H. Rathjens, M.J. White, D.D. Bosch, P.M. Allen, M. Volk & R. Srinivasan (2017). Journal of the American Water Resources Association 53(1).

DOI: 10.1111/1752-1688.12482

This paper presents SWAT+, a completely restructured version of the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). It is expected to improve code development and maintenance; support data availability, analysis, and visualization; and enhance the model’s capabilities in terms of the spatial representation of elements and processes within watersheds. The most important change is the implementation of landscape units and flow and pollutant routing across the landscape. Also, SWAT+ offers more flexibility than SWAT in defining management schedules, routing constituents, and connecting managed flow systems to the natural stream network. The restructured model version was applied to the Little River Experimental Watershed (Georgia).
Location and current land cover in the Mulde watershed in Saxony (Germany) overlaid with the soli-climate regions and the soil texture zones used by the LPJ-GUESS model. The map shows in addition the location of the Free State of Saxony in central Europe as well as the names of the most important urban areas

Trade-offs between plant species richness and carbon storage in the context of afforestation – Examples from afforestation scenarios in the Mulde Basin, Germany.

Lautenbach, S., A. Jungandreas, J. Blanke, V. Lehsten, S. Mühlner, I. Kühn & M. Volk (2017). Ecological Indicators 73: 139-155.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.09.035

This study investigates possible trade-offs between carbon storage and plant biodiversity caused by afforestation in Saxony. Six afforestation scenarios with total forest cover ranging from 27.7% to 46% were generated in the Mulde river basin in Saxony with regard to different forest types. While afforestation had overall positive effects both on plant species richness and carbon storage, a number of locations were identified for which afforestation would lead to a decrease in plant species richness. Spatial planning should therefore avoid afforestation at these locations.
NDVI time series derived from the hyperspectral sensor system, multispectral sensor system, MODIS Aqua and Terra, as well as Sentinel-2A processed with ATCOR 2/3.

Validating MODIS and Sentinel-2 NDVI Products at a Temperate Deciduous Forest Site Using Two Independent Ground-Based

Lange, M., Dechant B., Rebmann, C., Vohland, M., Cuntz, M., Doktor, D. (2017). Sensors.

DOI: 10.3390/s17081855

A validation site for Sentinel-2 satellite products was established in central Germany. Automatic multispectral and hyperspectral sensor systems were installed in parallel with an existing eddy covariance flux tower, providing spectral information of the vegetation present at high temporal resolution. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) values from ground-based hyperspectral and multispectral sensors were compared with NDVI products derived from Sentinel-2A and Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). High correlations and similar phenological patterns between in situ and satellite-based NDVI time series demonstrated the reliability of satellite-based phenological metrics. Sentinel-2-derived metrics showed better agreement with in situ measurements than MODIS-derived metrics. Dynamic filtering with the best index slope extraction algorithm was nevertheless beneficial for Sentinel-2 NDVI time series despite the availability of quality information from the atmospheric correction procedure.
outdoor recreation

Priorities to advance monitoring of ecosystem services using Earth observation.

Cord, A.F., Brauman, K.A., Chaplin-Kramer, R., Huth, A., Ziv, G., Seppelt, R. (2017): Trends Ecol. Evol.

DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2017.03.003

In this opinion article, we introduce a novel framework showing how Earth observation together with socioeconomic information and model-based analysis can support assessments of ecosystem service supply, demand, and benefit. The paper also proposes five priorities to advance the capabilities of Earth observation-based monitoring of ecosystem services (e.g., in the context of the SDGs).

PLS coefficients spectra for the VNIR model (left column) and the VNIR part of the full range model (right column).

Estimation of photosynthesis traits from leaf reflectance spectra: correlation to nitrogen content as the dominant mechanism.

Dechant, B., Cuntz, M., Vohland, M., Schulz, E., Doktor, D. (2017): Remote Sens. Environ.

DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2017.05.019

We tested the performance of estimating two important photosynthesis traits, the maximum carboxylation capacity and the maximum electron transport rate, from in-situ leaf reflectance spectra. Approaches used that are applicable on larger spatial scales and showed that both parameters can be estimated from leaf reflectance measurements with good accuracy even for a large number of tree species and varying light environments. Detailed analysis with regard to prediction performances led to the conclusion that the correlation to Nitrogen content per area was the dominating mechanism on which models based.
Spatial distribution and persistence of land cover changes over the whole study periods (1985–2011).

Expanding temporal resolution in landscape transformations: Insights from a landsat-based case study in Southern Chile.

Locher-Krause, K.E., Volk, M., Waske, B., Thonfeld, F., Lautenbach, S. (2017): Ecol. Indic.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.12.036

Understanding temporal and spatial dimensions of land cover dynamics is a critical factor to link ecosystem transformation to land and environmental management. Our analysis underlines the importance of expanding temporal resolution in land cover/use change studies to guide sustainable ecosystem management strategies as increase landscape connectivity and integrate landscape planning to economic activities.

The foundation of the conceptual framework

Harmonizing Biodiversity Conservation and Productivity in the Context of Increasing Demands on Landscapes.

Seppelt R, Beckmann M, Ceauşu S, et al (2016): BioScience.

DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biw004

Biodiversity conservation and agricultural production are often seen as mutually exclusive objectives. We discuss that harmonization between biodiversity conservation and crop production can be improved and provide a general conceptual framework that links biodiversity and agricultural production.

Index of natural potentials for the expansion of cropland

Addressing future trade-offs between biodiversity and cropland expansion to improve food security.

Delzeit, R., Zabel, F., Meyer, C., Václavík, T. (2016): Reg. Envir. Chang.

DOI: 10.1007/s10113-016-0927-1

This study addresses trade‐offs between providing sufficient food in the future and sustaining biodiversity by investigating (1) how global expansion of cropland might affect food production and prices, (2) where environmental conditions favor cropland expansion under changing climate, and (3) whether potential conversion to cropland would affect areas of high biodiversity or conservation importance.

Work flow of the analyses

Mapping pollination typeswith remote sensing.

Feilhauer, H., Doktor, D., Schmidtlein, S., Skidmore, A. K., (2016): J. Veg.Sci.

DOI: 10.1111/jvs.12421

Pollination is an ecosystem function that varies at local spatial scales. We sampled vascular plant species composition (100 plots) and used hyperspectral remotely sensed data together with machine learning techniques to quantify and map the resulting patterns for a better understanding of ecosystem functioning. Pollination types and optical traits (LAI, dry matter content) were significantly correlated up to R2=0.813. The spatial distribution of pollination types could be statistically modelled with a RMSE < 10.5%. The results show that pollination types are indeed related to canopy reflectance in a way that allows their mapping using remote sensing but transferability to other ecosystem has still to be tested.

Potential distribution and connectivity of the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) in the city of Cologne.

Coupling Satellite Data with Species Distribution and Connectivity Models as a Tool for Environmental Management and Planning in Matrix-Sensitive Species.

Rödder, D., Nekum, S., Cord, A.F. & Engler, J.O. (2016): Environmental Management.

DOI: 10.1007/s00267-016-0698-y

While anthropogenic habitat fragmentation increasingly disrupts connectivity in many species, potential habitats acting as inter-population connectivity corridors are mostly ignored in the common practice of environmental planning. In this study, we use fine-scale potential connectivity models (PCMs) derived from multispectral satellite data for the quantification of spatially explicit habitat corridors for matrix-sensitive species of conservation concern. We illustrate our approach using the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis L.) in the metropolitan area of Cologne, Germany, as a case study.

Study area with localities of geocaches and aggregated land cover data from the Urban Atlas project

Geocaching data as an indicator for recreational ecosystem services in urban areas: exploring spatial gradients, preferences and motivations.

A.F. Cord, F. Roeßiger, N. Schwarz (2015): Landscape and Urban Planning.

DOI: 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.08.015

In this paper, we focused on the recreational activity of ‘geocaching’ (, a worldwide outdoor game in which the participants use a GPS receiver to hide and seek containers. We used Leipzig as a case study and analyzed georeferenced localities of geocaches together with quantitative results of an online survey. We found that, while geocachers may have quite different motivations to participate in the activity, geocaching is indeed a type of local recreation and an indicator for urban ecosystem services, as green areas and experiences in nature are important.

Assessing ecosystem services for informing land-use decisions: a problem-oriented approach.

Förster, J., J. Barkmann, R. Fricke, S. Hotes, M. Kleyer, S. Kobbe, D. Kübler, C. Rumbaur, M. Siegmund-Schultze, R. Seppelt, J. Settele, J. Spangenberg, V. Tekken, T. Václavík, H. Wittmer (2015): Ecology & Society

DOI: 10.5751/ES-07804-200331

The GLUES-team has synthesised lessons learned from ecosystem service assessments for informing land use decisions. Together with the projects SuLaMa, LEGATO, INNOVATE and SuMaRiO of the BMBF-financed Sustainable Land Management Programme, we published the paper in a Special Feature of the Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS), which is part of Future Earth

Cover Journal of Applied Ecology

Effects of land use on plant diversity – A global meta-analysis

K. Gerstner, C. F. Dormann, A. Stein, A. Manceur, R. Seppelt (2014): Journal of Applied Ecology.

DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12329

Plant diversity is globally threatened by anthropogenic land use while at regional and local scales evidence for declining species diversity is mixed. Our meta-analysis on land-use effects on plant species richness revealed that direct and indirect effects of land use are quite variable and can lead to both local decreases and increases. Further, we found important covariables of specific land-use classes and strong evidence that land-use effects are moderated by biomes suggesting that effects generally depend on species pool size.

Cover: Methods in Ecology and Evolution

Separating the effects of changes in land cover and climate: a hydro-meteorological analysis of the past 60 yr in Saxony, Germany.

Renner, M., K. Brust, K. Schwärzel, M. Volk & C. Bernhofer (2014): Hydrology and Earth System Sciences.

DOI: 10.5194/hess-18-389-2014

In this paper, a separation and attribution method based on a Budyko framework is illustrated. The analyses show significant effects of global warming on evaporation and the water balance of entire Saxony. However, the main reason for the changes of the water balance was industrial air pollution - it has been proven that the air pollution driven tree damages have been the crucial factor in the higher forested basins.

Typical strip-pattern of cultivated and fallowed fields; note the erosion marks on the fallows

Impacts of agricultural land-use dynamics on erosion risks and options for land and water management in Northern Mongolia.

J. A. Priess, C. Schweitzer, O. Batkhishig, T. Koschitzki, D. Wurbs (2014): Environ Earth Sci.

DOI: 10.1007/s12665-014-3380-9

In Mongolia, nomadic herders have successfully been grazing livestock for more than a millennium. However, for recent years, we estimated that i Northern Mongolia erosion risks under current land use sum up to approximately 2–4 Mg ha-1 year-1 for steppe and 4–9 Mg ha-1 year-1 for cropland. Scenario calculations indicate that land use and climate change can either reduce (-30 %) or aggravate erosion risks up to sevenfold and contribute to the challenges in water and soil management.


glUV: a global UV-B radiation data set for macroecological studies.

Beckmann, M., Václavík, T., Manceur, A. M., Šprtová, L., von Wehrden, H., Welk, E., Cord, A. F. (2014): Methods in Ecology and Evolution.
DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12168

Many research projects study the effects of temperature and precipitation on the global distribution of plant and animal species. However, an important component of climate research, the UV-B radiation, is often neglected. Landscape ecologists from UFZ have processed UV-B data from the NASA space agency in such a way that they can be used to study the influence of UV-B radiation on organisms. The data set (global UV-B data set for macroecology: glUV) is freely available for download at .

Accounting for geographical variation in species–area relationships improves the prediction of plant species richness at the global scale.

Gerstner, K., Dormann, C.F., Václavík, T., Kreft, H., Seppelt, R., (2013): Journal of Biogeography.

DOI: 10.1111/jbi.12213

The species–area relationship (SAR) is a prominent concept for predicting species richness and biodiversity loss. A key step in defining SARs is to accurately estimate the slope of the relationship, but researchers typically apply only one global (canonical) slope which is overly simplistic. We show that predictions of global species richness patterns can be considerably improved by accounting for variation due to biomes.


Mapping global land system archetypes.

Václavík, T., Lautenbach, S., Kuemmerle, T., Seppelt, R. (2013): Global Environmental Change.

DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.09.004

Mapping global land system archetypes provides a new representation of global land systems based on more than 30 high-resolution datasets on land-use intensity, environmental conditions and socioeconomic indicators. This approach advances our under-standing of the global patterns of human-environment interactions and of the environmental and social conditions associated with different types of land use.


Identifying trade-offs between ecosystem services, land use, and biodiversity: a plea for combining scenario analysis and optimization on different spatial scales

Seppelt, R., Lautenbach, S., Volk, M., (2013): Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability.

DOI: 10.1016/j.cosust.2013.05.002

The publication provides perspectives on the application of exploratory modelling, esp. optimization for a quantitative analysis of trade-off of different types of land use in multifunctional landscape. We also discuss the integration of these as well as scenario analysis for solving regional as well as global aspect of land use conflicts.


The impact of Best Management Practices on simulated streamflow and sediment load in a Central Brazilian catchment:

Strauch, M., Lima, J.E.F.W. , Volk, M., Lorz, C., Makeschin, F., (2013): J. Environ. Manage.

DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.01.014

In several Brazilian river basins Best Management Practices, such as terraces or sediment retention basins, are supported by 'Payments for Environmental Services'. By means of process-based scenario simulations, this study quantified the cost-effectiveness of such measures regarding sediment retention and water yield.

Global map of pollination benefits

A new multi-scale approach for monitoring vegetation using remote sensing-based indicators in laboratory, field and landscape

Lausch, A. et al. (2012) Environmental Monitoring and Assessment.

DOI: 10.1007//s10661-012-2627-8

Remote sensing is an important tool for studying patterns in surface processes on different spatiotemporal scales. However, differences in the spatiospectral and temporal resolution of remote sensing data as well as sensor-specific surveying characteristics very often hinder comparative analyses and effective up- and downscaling analyses. This paper presents a new methodical framework for combining hyperspectral remote sensing data on different spatial and temporal scales using the “One Sensor at Different Scales” (OSADIS) approach for the laboratory (plot), field (local), and landscape (regional) scales.

Global map of pollination benefits

Spatial and temporal trends of global pollination benefit

Lautenbach, S. et al. (2012) PlosONE e35954.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035954

Based on global data on land use and time series for production quantities and production prices of pollination dependent crops, an global increase in pollination benefits was shown and regional hotspots of pollination benefits were identified.

Map of analysed cities with thermal climatic zones by the FAO

Exploring indicators for quantifying surface urban heat islands of European cities with MODIS land surface temperatures

Schwarz, N. et al. (2011) Remote Sensing of Environment, 115, 3175-3186.

DOI: 10.1016/j.rse.2011.07.003

This European wide analysis of urban heat island on the base of remote sensing data based on 263 cities revealed the variation of classical urban heat island indicators and identified the need to comparatively quantify several indicators of urban heat islands in parallel to foster comparability.

Methodology flowchart

Using precipitation data ensemble for uncertainty analysis in SWAT streamflow simulation

Strauch, M., Bernhofer, C., Koide, S., Volk, M., Lorz, C., Makeschin, F. (2012) Journal of Hydrology 414-415, 413-424.

DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2011.11.014

The study shows that ensemble modeling with multiple precipitation inputs can considerably increase the level of confidence in hydrological simulation results, particularly in data-poor regions.