Institute of

Rural Studies

Use of resources, environment and nature protection

Photo: Cereals - Rape - Forest
Cereals - Rape - Forest (© aid infodienst, Bonn)

We analyse the economic aspects of the agricultural use of natural resources as well as the interrelationships with the environment, nature and society and develop options for a sustainable use of resources.

Agriculture uses the natural resources air, water and soil and impacts the environment and nature and shapes the landscape that we live in. On the one hand German agriculture accounts for approximately 8 % of total German Green House Gases and contributes to climate change; on the other hand agriculture has to adapt to changing climate conditions. In many regions fertilisation causes the major share of nutrient charges into water bodies such that water quality targets will be missed. Excessive irrigation may result in regional conflicts about water use. Using agricultural land intensively influences the biodiversity in the agrarian landscape.

Photo: Nature conservation by agriculture
Nature conservation by agriculture (© aid infodienst, Bonn)

The society contemplates attentively these processes more and more. At the same time the claims on agricultural area increase since not only food and feed should be produced but also biomass for both material and energetic utilisation. Anyhow, natural and semi-natural habitat should be preserved and water bodies, air and soil should be conserved. However, this requires area, too, or restricts its usage.

Using economic methods we analyse the agricultural use of natural resources and take the involved interrelationships with the environment, nature and society into account. On this basis we identify options how resources can be used sustainably and provide decision-making support for the further development of the agricultural, energy, environmental, and nature protection policy.

Our topics:

  • How can we protect and sustainably use soil, water, air, biodiversity, and the landscape?
  • What are the impacts of climate change on agricultural land use, production, and income in rural areas?
  • How do land use and its multi-functional impacts change due to the changing expectations of society?

We merge and systematically consolidate different, regional data in order to describe in detail as much as possible the present state of land use, environment and nature. On this basis we derive impact factors for the current agricultural land use and animal production. For regionally differentiated analyses we apply the "Regionalised Agricultural and Environmental Information System for Germany (RAUMIS)", often within a network of hydrogeological models of other research institutions. For local analyses we use the potential provided by Geographic Information Systems.

We actively participate in interdisciplinary collaboration with other research institutions within the Thünen Institute in particular with the Institute of Climate-Smart Agriculture and the Institute of Biodiversity.

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