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New method of developing agri-environment schemes proposes €3 million saving in Germany


A method for developing more cost-effective agri-environment schemes is outlined in a recent study. The procedure can be used over large areas, accounts for hundreds of management regimes and several different endangered species. The model is one of the first to account for the timing of measures and, when applied to Saxony in Germany, proposed savings of over €3 million, while also improving some conservation outcomes.

Agri-environment schemes (AES), under which farmers are compensated for forms of land use that benefit wildlife, help to protect the environment from the harmful effects of agriculture across Europe.

The model is informed by various pieces of information, such as species and habitat characteristics, how land use measures affect biodiversity, and information on the local landscape. A simulation stage assesses the conservation impact of existing schemes, while the optimisation stage identifies more cost-effective options.

The procedure was applied to the German Federal State of Saxony, where 17% of all land used for agricultural production is comprised of grassland. After calculating the ecological effects of the different land use measures in the Saxony AES (which is entitled Extensive grassland use, nature conforming grassland management and conservation and contains several mowing and grazing measures), optimisation was used to analyse cost effectiveness. 

The model provides the basis for a decision-support software, DSS-Ecopay, to design ecologically effective and cost-effective AES in grasslands.

The software is available free of charge at
Source: Wätzold, F., Drechsler, M., Johst, K., Mewes, M. & Sturm, A. (2015). A novel, spatiotemporally explicit ecological-economic modeling procedure for the design of cost-effective agri-environment schemes to conserve biodiversity. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 98 (2): 489–512. DOI: 10.1093/ajae/aav058.  
Contact: waetzold [at]
Read more about the new study following the link to Science for Environment Policy