Research Projects

RECONNECT: Reconciling fragmented and contested landscapes

RECONNECT is a three-year project funded through the European Biodiversity Partnership “BiodivERsA+”. To help stopping the ongoing biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation the recent agreement on the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework as well as the European Biodiversity Strategy have set, among others, a clear target of 30% of protected terrestrial areas to be achieved by 2030. While this target has been welcomed by many, fragmentation, contestation, and disconnection between biodiversity conservation and other aspects of contemporary landscapes and societies still mostly prevail, leading to tensions between conservation, equity, and production goals, and to clashing governance priorities and land use practices.

In RECONNECT we interrogate social and ecological fragmentations of protected areas in multifunctional landscapes with the aim to identify key points for reconnection interventions. Our group combines governance and institutional analysis, biodiversity and ecosystem service modelling, participatory value mapping and geo-design stakeholder processes in protected areas in France, Germany, South Africa and Sweden. We work with an interdisciplinary team of research centres and universities such as the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the Stockholm Resilience Centre, the French CNRS lab of alpine ecology, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and local stakeholders.

Contact: &

Wood Pastures: Distribution, Biodiversity and Strategies to Re-Establish Agroforestry Use

Agroforestry systems in forests, especially wood pastures, have once been widespread in Central Europe. Today the remaining areas of this use still exist, and show a high degree of biodiversity that is worth protecting.

However, these areas, too, are decreasing, and agroforestry systems are only sporadially re-established. Together with the Department of Forest Conservation of the North-West German Forest Research Institut (NW-FVA), we aim to integrate scientific and practical knowledge on wood pasture management and create the foundations for an evidence-based revival of wood pastures in an adequate model region - especially through a mapping former and current wood pastures, as well as through building a 'community of practice'. The project focuses on North-West Germany.
Contact: &

Perception and appreciation of cultural ecosystem services from peatlands

Peatlands have been used throughout history, and they are closely related to traditional and cultural management techniques. In addition, peatlands are of high value for climate change mitigation, water supply and quality, and conservation.
Against the background of ongoing disturbances such as land-use changes and biodiversity declines, many peatlands have been degraded, and their ecosystem services have been threatened. Based on the example of Lower Saxony, our project will shed light on the cultural value dimension of peatlands. Particularly, we are interested in understanding societies’ views as well as values and knowledge of local land managers. In this way, we intend to find ways for sustainable protection as well as use of peatlands and their cultural ecosystem services.
This three-year project is funded by the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture.
Contact:; &

KOOPERATIV: Promoting biodiversity at the landscape level

Against the background of agricultural intensification and biodiversity losses, the KOOPERATIV project aims to develop and test a participatory and integrative approach for the landscape-scale implementation of Agri-environmental measures.
Based on the example of perennial flower strips, ideal area proportions as well as spatial configurations will be analyzed, and biodiversity and ecosystem services will be improved in the most cost-efficient way. KOOPERATIV aims to support collaboration of actors in the context of agricultural management and protection. Within the socio-ecological part of the project, supervised by Prof. Tobias Plieninger and Dr. Stefan Schüler, PhD student Jule Huber will analyze relevant framework conditions that could support or hamper the joint implementation of perennial flower strips at landscape level.
This project is funded by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN).
Contact:; &


The aim of ConServeTerra is to put into practice Conservation Agriculture's findings that less ploughed agriculture and other measures increase the productivity and resilience of agricultural systems in the Mediterranean region. Conservation agriculture, while good for the land and the farmer, is not highly regarded in the region and is therefore little used. The central hypothesis is that cultural attitudes and social aspects in dealing with land prevent a change in cultivation. New ways of working the land would be tantamount to a break with traditions and heritage, especially since people's identities are closely linked to their landscape. ConServeTerra will examine the social and cultural values and determining factors and obstacles to the use of new methods of cultivation in order to develop new strategies to increase the acceptance and use of conservation agriculture in the Mediterranean region.
Contact: &

CESMINE: Cultural ecosystem services of post-mining sites: socio-economic rehabilitation after quarrying

CESMINE is a two-year project funded through the EUROPEAN Commission’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions. It addresses the issues of quarries and their post-mining benefits for residents. From 2020 to 2022, the project will be conducted in three European countries: Germany, Denmark and the Czech Republic. CESMINE works in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen and HeidelbergCement, a world leading quarrying company. The project will combine quantitative and qualitative methods, using novel techniques such as social networks analyses, public participation, geographical information system (GIS), and spatially explicit indicators of cultural ecosystem services. This will be framed by the real socio-economic conditions revealed directly in the mining regions, analysing the real use of the sites by residents and by external visitors. The project is designed as a response to the EU Raw Materials Initiative’s goal of sustainable quarry restoration and post-mining management.
Contact: &

(LANDSCAPE|CHAINS): Linking places and processes for sustainability. Social-ecological dynamics and value chains of Mediterranean landscape products

The objective of this DFG-funded project is to identify leverage points in the value chains of quality landscape products (cork and edible tree crops) that support a transition to sustainable landscape management, accounting for social and ecological trade-offs across scales and users. The starting point of the multi-scale analyses will be four distinct producer landscapes: Alentejo, Portugal, and Maamora, Morocco (cork agroforestry) and Gata-Hurdes, Spain, and High Atlas, Morocco, (mixed farming and pastoralism). The overarching hypothesis to be explored is that landscape products empower consumers to connect to producer landscapes and to valorise social-ecological landscape characteristics through multiple flows of goods, investment, and information along value chains.
Contact:, &

FOR2432/2: Social-ecological dynamics, ecosystem services uses, and governance of green and blue infrastructure in urbanizing environments

In the face of the rapid urbanization, green infrastructure has become an important component of both urban and rural ecosystems that underpins multiple aspects of human well-being. This research project, funded by the German Research Foundation DFG, aims to provide social-ecological knowledge on the dynamics, values, development options, and governance of green infrastructure along the rural-urban interface in Bangalore, India. Firstly, it will identify social-ecological impacts of urbanization on agricultural systems based on a systematic literature review. Secondly, it will elicit the ecological, demographic, and socio-economic drivers shaping green infrastructures along rural-urban settings. Thirdly, it will map and quantify the ecosystem services uses and subjective well-being around green infrastructures. Finally, it will establish a social-ecological framework relating social and ecological characteristics to the outcomes in the governance and management of green infrastructures under urbanization.

ENVISION: An inclusive approach to assessing integrative scenarios and visions for protected area management

ENVISION is a three-year project funded through the Belmont Forum - BiodivERsA. Protected areas (PA) in the EU and the U.S. face challenges that require of inclusive and collaborative management strategies that accommodate different visions. This project develops, tests, and validates a novel, inclusive scenario approach for engaging multiple stakeholders in PA management and biodiversity decision-making at multiple scales. Our group combines systematic reviews, social-ecological inventories and oral history methods carried out in protected areas in Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the US, aiming to develop an inclusive conservation approach. We work with an international interdisciplinary team of research centres and universities such as the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the Stockholm Resilience Centre, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), foundations and private companies.

SINCERE: Spurring Innovations in Forest Ecosystem Services in Europe

SINCERE is a four-year project funded through the EUROPEAN Commission's Horizon 2020 programme. From 2018 to 2022, SINCERE will develop novel policies and new business models by connecting knowledge and expertise from practice, science and policy, across Europe and beyond. Within the project, we are coordinating the working package "Creating a knowledge map" which aims to provide a robust evidence base of innovative mechanisms that support the provision of forest ecosystem services. We are also participating in on case study exploring the design and implementation of management models mainly focused in the promotion of cultural, spiritual and biodiversity values. Contact:

recently completed projects

KLEIBER: Small private forests: conservation through resource use

This project, funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, aims to identify nature conservation values in small private forests against the background of an increased and further growing demand for raw wood and to secure these values within the framework of profitable forest management. In north-western Germany, those forest structures and characteristics of small private forests, which are valued by forest nature conservation, are to be identified on the levels of major natural regions and, in particular, model regions. Social-ecological studies analyse the targets and concrete management practices of small private forest owners as well as their views on problems and perspectives regarding nature conservation measures. For forestry practice, nature conservational-silvicultural decision aids are to be developed, which integrate measures that maintain the structures and habitats valued by nature conservation into profitable forest management. Innovative forestry policy instruments and mechanisms that aim at the promotion of forest nature conservation measures by the society are taken into account.
Contact: &

TREES ON FARMS: Harnessing the potential of Trees on farms for biodiversity

The world’s forests have historically been harbours of massive biodiversity, but it is well known that they have been extensively cleared and remain under imminent threat. Most of the forests that we have lost were cleared for agriculture, and the pressure to create more and more agricultural land grows as the world gears up to feed a population expected to rise to at least 9 billion people by 2050. The Trees on Farms for Biodiversity project (financed by the International Climate Initiative of the Federal Government of Germany) will increase our knowledge of the links between trees, agriculture and biodiversity. It will assess a range of policy and funding options for increasing incentives and support for trees in agriculture. Contact:

AGFORWARD: AGroFORestry that Will Advance Rural Development

AGFORWARD was a four-year research project funded by the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7). It started in January 2014 and ended in December 2017. The overall aim of the project was to promote agroforestry practices in Europe that would advance rural development. Our main role within this project was the coordination of WP7, which aimed to evaluate possible agroforestry interventions at a landscape scale. Main results:
  • A synthesis report on European agroforestry performance in terms of biodiversity, ecosystem services and profitability.
  • A report on ecosystem services and profitability of selected European agroforestry practices.
  • A report on profitability and provision of biodiversty and ecosystem services through agroforestry systems at a landscape scale.

contact: &

HERCULES: Sustainable Futures for Europe´s HERitage in CUltural LandscapES:

Tools for understanding, managing, and protecting landscape functions and values.

ESMERALDA: Enhancing ecoSysteM sERvices mApping for poLicy and Decision mAking

ESMERALDA was four-year project funded through the EUROPEAN Commission's Horizon 2020 programme. Mapping and assessment of ecosystem and their services are core to the EU Biodiversity Strategy. ESMERALDA's main aim was to deliver a flexible methodology to provide the building blocks for pan-European and regional assessments. Our main role in the project was to support the synthesis and assessment of current socio-cultural approaches for mapping and assessment of ecosystem services. Main results: Report of Social Mapping and Assessment methods. Contact: &