Work package 5

Quantifying socio-economic implications of eco-functional intensification

WP leader – University of Bayreuth (D), Thomas Koellner.

WP5 deals with objectives that logically continue the work of WP4, which is oriented towards evaluation of yield as it is critical to farmers’ decision making, but also in terms of feeding a growing world population and meeting the emerging demands of bio-based economy. WP5 takes a wider perspective and considers the socio-economic implications of ecological intensification. Thus, both for an individual farmer as well as for society as a whole the highest possible yield may not be the optimal economic, let alone the optimal sustainable solution. Lower yields can for example achieve higher net income when they are produced at lower costs for inputs such as energy or fertilizer. Also accepting lower productivity for the sake of maintaining higher levels of biodiversity can be economically beneficial, as it may stabilize farm income and reduce dependency on input from external sources. Finally, maximizing yields today might result in lower yields in the future if e.g. soils are degradation, and hence be unsustainable. In order to successfully optimize such a multi-criteria farm management problem that recognizes the benefits of ecosystem services as well as biodiversity in addition to monetary income, relevant links between economy and ecosystem processes need to be revealed. One of these is the concrete advantageous influence of biodiversity on farm income, which needs to be comprehensible and quantifiable for farmers in order to have an influence on their decision making. Furthermore, it is crucial to also understand what actually determines farmers’ opinion about ecosystem services.

To optimize biodiversity and delivery of ecosystem services on the one hand, and the income of farmers on the other (task 5.1) we model farm income under different biodiversity and ecosystem management scenarios using farm data from WP2. For below-ground biodiversity an already existing model from Lund University that calculates the relationship between soil organic matter as a proxy for below-ground biodiversity, yield and farm income will be used. We will also quantify the potential benefits of farmers cooperating to improve landscape structure for delivery of ecosystem services by considering two aspects: i) immediate benefits gained by achieving optimal habitat levels at the landscape scale and ii) insurance value. To analyse the insurance value (task 5.2) we assess the reduction in risks that might be achieved by reducing reliance on external inputs (market risk) and reducing the relative variability of yields (production risk). Uncertainty about future events gives rise to insurance value. We will use stochastic simulation to determine how different assumptions about the future (i.e. distributions of model parameters such as energy prices) affect the probability distributions of farm profits under different scenarios about the future. This will also make it possible to draw conclusions about the sustainability of different landscape structures. For objective 3 two approaches will be used to determine attitudes to proposed ecological intensification options. First, a set of interviews linked to each of the farm sites in each country. Second, a postal survey of a wide range of farmers in four of the countries (UK, Sweden, Poland and/or Hungary, Italy) considered representative of the farming community as a whole.

Objectives

  1. Examine effects of ecological intensification on farmers profits
  2. Analyse income volatility over time in relation to biodiversity and ecosystem services
  3. Survey farmers’ perspectives and attitudes towards mobilization of on-farm ecosystem services