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Institute of Soil Landscape Research

Institute of Land Use Systems

Institute of Landscape Biogeochemistry

Institute of Landscape Systems Analysis

Institute of Landscape Hydrology

Institute of Socio-Economics

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About Institute of Socio-Economics

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Contribution to Research of ZALF

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The institute contributes to align the research agenda of Core Topic I with the Grand Societal Challenges. Basic research on landscape functioning that aims at real world impacts needs to consider social aspects from the very beginning.

Significant contributions to Core Topic II are provided by farm-based bioeconomic modelling as part of sustainability impact assessments and the development of regionally adapted land-use systems. These are centered on questions of food security as well as resource and biodiversity conservation.
Questions of ecosystem services assessment and participatory impact assessment methods stand at the interface between Core Topic II and Core Topic III.

In the context of Core Topic III, the institute analyses conflicts and actors’ preferences regarding the demand for ecosystem services, biodiversity conservation, and competing claims on natural resources. While analyzing and assessing present policies and governance structures, the institute contributes to developing innovative policy instruments and governance approaches.


Research Areas

The institute consists of three research areas: (1) Economics of Sustainable Land Use, (2) Governance of Ecosystem Services and Rural Development, and (3) Co-Design of Change and Innovation. The institute’s size and diversity allow the examination of complex topics in agricultural landscape research. Each research area is headed by a speaker council with rotating heads. The research areas organize projects within their area of expertise. Scientific exchange is not limited to the research areas. It also takes place between the institute’s research areas, within ZALF’s core topics, and on national and international levels.


(1) Economics of Sustainable Land Use

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Contact:  Dr. Peter Zander, Dr. Stefan Sieber, Dr. Jens Rommel

Agricultural land use results from the decisions of individual land users and their interactions. It is driven by economic developments, resource availability, actors’ knowledge, and preferences. We analyse the impact of actors’ decisions on the sustainability and efficiency of land use in Europe and in developing countries. Our research topics include:

  • Technology and policy impact assessments at farm/regional level
  • Trade-offs between the provision of ecosystem services/biodiversity and high quality and secure primary products
  • Profitability and benefits of protein crops, soil conservation, and water management in Germany and Europe
  • Value chain analysis and behavioural experiments on sustainable agriculture for food security in developing countries.

Our work is closely connected to crop production, biodiversity and water management (ZALF-core topic II ) and governance and innovation research (ZALF-core topic III ).


(2) Governance of Ecosystem Services and Rural Development

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Contact:  Prof. Dr. Bettina Matzdorf, Dr. Annette Piorr

The global challenges of achieving food security, an efficient use of natural resources, and climate change adaptation and mitigation require suitable governance approaches and instruments to support an sustainable change processes in agricultural landscapes. Suitable governance approaches and instruments are particularly necessary to provide public goods including manifold ecosystem services and biodiversity. Research Area 2 analyses such governance approaches against the backdrop of the ecosystem services concept, which particularly focuses on the beneficiaries of public goods. New governance models and policies are analysed and developed jointly with diverse actors and stakeholders. Thereby, especially new forms of cooperation and new financing models, including payments for ecosystem services, are targeted at including their interplay with existing regulatory law. The increased focus on beneficiaries and demanders of ecosystem services and other public goods from agricultural landscapes points towards the functional relation between urban (demand) and rural (supply) areas. Correspondingly, the functional relation is especially taken into account for the development of new governance solutions. Furthermore, Research Area 2 initiated the founding of the “Innovation Network for Ecosystem Services in Germany (ESP-DE)” as a national chapter of the “Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP)” in 2015 and in close cooperation with the other major German research institutes in the context of ecosystem services.


(3) Co-Design of Change and Innovation

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Contact: apl. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Thomas Weith, Dr. Rosemarie Siebert,
associated: Prof. Dr. Andrea Knierim 

An agricultural land use that is sustainability-oriented assumes the cooperation of various actors. We analyze the different values, points of views, and interests of the affected actors as well as their forms and amount of knowledge in the context of organizational structures and institutional settings. Our approach goes beyond different scales and is also inter- and transdisciplinary. Our research topics include:

  • The emergence of land-use conflicts and their solution through inter- and transdisciplinary advisory and knowledge-management systems
  • The formation of transformation and innovation processes in their spatial and socio-structural context
  • The acceptance of land-use changes.

Our research area focuses on the analysis of land-use conflicts and how they can be addressed (core topic III).

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