Key projects

Button EG Food4Cities  Button EG Coupled  Button EG Terra Nova


Other projects

Socio-ecological system mapping and modelling

EG_ENVISIONEnvision (financed by BiodivERsA) aims at more inclusive approaches to protected area management that enhance the conservation and well-being values of protected areas and provide for multiple community and industry needs. This is operationalized by developing mixed-method, participatory scenario planning tools and processes for identifying, assessing and balancing multiple community and industry groups’ visions for the management of protected areas in Europe and the United States beyond 2020, including their consequences on human well-being and the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems services. We will use these results to make evidence-based recommendations to protected area managers operating at local, national and international scales in order to inform post-2020 biodiversity policy, particularly on protected areas management. Within the project IVM will address how land management impacts ecosystem services, biodiversity, and human well-being in different ways. Trade-offs have to be navigated carefully as win-wins are not necessarily available. However, how to navigate such trade-offs through land management is unclear. In the work package under responsibility of IVM we will not only discuss the visions of development of the area with stakeholders, but also use simulation models to quantify the impacts of these visions in terms of impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Stakeholder discussions will be informed by these simulation results to find the most optimal and acceptable ways to navigate the trade-offs or clarify why it is necessary to implement certain management decisions that implicitly embed trade-offs.

EG LandSenseThe LandSense Citizen Observatory aims to aggregate innovative EO technologies, mobile devices, community-based environmental monitoring, data collection, interpretation and information delivery systems to empower communities to monitor and report on their environment. A number of key characteristics fundamental to the LandSense Citizen Observatory include: 

  • Bidirectional information flows between different communities (i.e. citizens, scientists, policymakers, industries, SMEs, NGOs, etc.);
  • Involve new citizen functions in accumulating and using information;
  • Support multi-scalar government from the EU level downwards;
  • Complement EO (i.e. remotely sensed) data and state-organized data collection;
  • Give communities access to easily-understandable information needed for decision-making.

A key component of the project is the LandSense Engagement Platform. Various communities will be able to actively participate within the LandSense engagement platform through a variety of interactive tools and functions to facilitate information transfer, assessment, valuation, uptake and exploitation of environmental data and results. The platform will offer collaborative mapping functionalities to allow citizens to view, analyze and share data collected from different campaigns and create their own maps, individually and collaboratively. In addition, citizens can participate in ongoing LandSense demonstration cases using their own devices (e.g. mobile phones and tablets), through interactive reporting and gaming applications, as well as launching their own campaigns.

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In the past years, IVM has been consulting the European Environment Agency on a wide variety of topics related to land use in the European Union. Recently, IVM analysed how well irrigation is captured on European land use products and what are the potential mismatches in different datasets. Currently, IVM is preparing a EU wide map on livestock grazing, to support the management of high nature value areas in the European Union. 

Contact information: Dr Jasper van Vliet and Dr Žiga Malek.

Human consumption of food and agricultural products has a significant impact on the environment and the societies in the regions where they are produced. Given Europe’s large and growing land-use footprint abroad, Europe has a special responsibility to develop concepts and tools needed to achieve sustainability in an interconnected world. Different sectors, consumers, businesses and politicians are increasingly demanding more environmental and social sustainable land use both inside and outside Europe.

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Trade-offs between climate, biodiversity and ecosystem services

IVM, together with the Bern University of Applied Sciences, is analysing potential climate change impacts on Fairtrade producers. Specifically, we try to understand predicted climate change impacts on specific regions and commodities and map the ‘climate change hotspots’ within the Fairtrade producers’ network. 

Combining a set of different climate change projections we analyse potential effects of climate change on main Fairtrade commodities: banana, cocoa, coffee, cotton, sugarcane and tea. We first performed a literature review to identify the main observed and expected climate change impacts, We then use global projections to identify areas, where Fairtrade crops are currently sourced, that will experience considerable changes to temperature and rainfall extremes. This way, we identify the extent to which over 1.5 million farmers all around the world might be impacted by future climate change. Finally, we identify priority areas for future adaptation to climate change, such as improving drainage, equipping fields with irrigation, or establishing shaded production areas.

Contact information: Dr Žiga Malek and Prof. Peter Verburg.

Provision of public goods by Europe’s rural landscapes is challenged by trade-offs between environmental performance and farm profitability, the time lag between action and impact, and the potential mismatch between the scales of actions and effects. As a result, several public goods, such as water and air quality, control of soil erosion, carbon sequestration, animal and plant biodiversity and recreation are characterised by under-provision. CONSOLE aims to boost delivery of public goods by EU agriculture and forestry. To do so, CONSOLE aims at designing and testing effective and efficient contracts for the provision of public goods.

Contact information: Dr Nynke Schulp and Kina Harmanny.

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EG_SDGSustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a comprehensive set of targets for humanity, and progress towards each of the SDG is considered a positive development. Some SDG can be considered synergetic when progress towards one SDG yields additional benefits towards another SDG. However, in other cases progress towards one SDG might cause trade-offs by limiting the progress towards another SDG, which is not unlikely in a world of limited resources. In this project we will assess how and to what extent improvements towards food and nutrition security (SDG2) is associated with  synergies and trade-offs with poverty reduction (SDG1), health (SDG3), climate change (SDG13), and biodiversity (SDG15). The main aim of this project is to analyse how and to what extent developments towards SDG2 (End hunger) in South-East Asia yields synergies and trade-offs with other SDGs, and how policy measures can improve the outcomes of such interaction. The geographical focus of this project is on Lao PDR and Myanmar, two developing countries in Southeast Asia where hunger is still prevalent in many locations. 

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The project addresses the challenge of securing food production while still supporting ecosystem services provision and biodiversity conservation by agricultural land. A key aim of the TALE project was the assessment of relevance of existing measures and payments (and conditions for receiving these payments) for biodiversity, targeted land use and selected Ecosystem Services. To do so, research was oriented to the disentanglement and quantification of the multifaceted links between agricultural production, biodiversity and ecosystem services in different European landscapes. Results must be used to support the design and evaluation of policy options particularly regarding the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that can help to reconcile conflicting demands, namely the production of agricultural commodities while at the same time ensuring the provision of ESS and conservation of biodiversity. The project is innovative in the sense that it provides conclusions on how to bring optimization into practice.

Contact information: Prof. Peter Verburg

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Land system change and sustainability transformations

IVM is collaborating with the Interamerican Development Bank (IaDB) to analyse how future changes in production of crops and livestock might result in deforestation in the wider Amazon region, impacting biodiversity, soil erosion, nutrient run-off and carbon sequestration. Together with the IaDB, we develop a novel framework, linking the Integrated Economic-Environmental Modeling (IEEM) Platform with a spatial land use change model and an Ecosystem Services Model. Advancing the state-of-the-art in integrated economic-environmental modelling, our framework for the first time integrates dynamic endogenous feedbacks between natural capital, ecosystem services and the economic system to fully capture how changes in natural capital and ecosystem service flows affect the economy and vice versa. Our approach quantitatively models the economy, natural capital and ecosystem services as one integrated and complex system at a high level of spatial resolution across the wider Amazon region (Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru). We demonstrate how valuing biodiversity in public policy and investment analysis can make the difference between an investment that is economically viable and one that is not. The economic and environmental benefits of enhancing the region’s natural capital base and future ecosystem service supply are demonstrated and regionally differentiated, which provides a strong empirical evidence base to inform the spatial targeting of policies to maximize economic, environmental and social outcomes.

Contact information: Dr Žiga Malek and Prof. Peter Verburg

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Diversity matters. Diversity in colour, gender, culture, and ideas, are what make our world interesting and beautiful. In recent years diversity in our agricultural systems has been rapidly changing. Two existing SESYNC projects aim to understand the political drivers of this change, and its impacts on human nutrition. Our project aims to complement, and work with, these existing projects by laying the groundwork for operationalizing a monitoring network for assessing the benefits and costs of agricultural diversification with respect to the Food-Energy- Water nexus. To do this, our project will analyse and synthesize data from our network’s existing empirical projects in North America, South America and Africa. Each of these projects works with multiple farms arrayed across local and landscape-scale gradients of diversification. We will couple these analyses with a coordinated mapping effort to synthesize large-scale data sets and classifications of agricultural diversity patterns. We will then integrate these data to (1) undertake trade-off and multifunctionality analysis, (2) identify key gaps in currently linking social and environmental outcomes in survey instruments, and (3) devise a common protocol for operationalizing assessments of agricultural landscape diversity and outcomes over time. Our rich localized data-sets, coupled with our growing collaborative global network offer an opportunity for new scientific insights into the assessing the costs and benefits of agricultural diversification at large spatial scales. Our commitment to working with farmers in the fields across geographic and cultural contexts offer a direct means to translate insights into action.

Contact information: Dr Christian Levers.

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EG_LegumeGapGrain legumes increase the resilience of cropping systems and farm businesses through diversification and enhance environmental and socio-economic sustainability by (a) reducing fertilizer and pesticide use, greenhouse gas emissions, soil degradation and biodiversity loss, (b) increasing protein self-sufficiency, and (c) contributing to sustainable diets. Sustainable intensification, fully utilizing the potential of legumes, is key for enabling agricultural production when resources are limited and climate is changing.

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IVM has been a partner of a consortium that developed a methodology to better assess biodiversity impacts of European trade liberalization agreements. The consortium, lead by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (, developed a methodology that outlined a stepwise process on how to set up and carry out an assessment of the impacts of trade liberalisation on biodiversity in a structured and consistent manner, with a special focus on quantifying the impacts. It was designed to be implemented as part of the Commission’s overall trade impact assessment process, both before and/or during the trade negotiations (ex-ante) and when trade agreements are in place (ex-post). The methodological framework was envisioned to lead to trade liberalization with a lower negative impact on biodiversity.

Contact information: Dr Žiga Malek.

EG_GlolandLand is a limited resource that is under pressure of demand from different sectors and affected by many of the global targets in the Sustainable Development Goals. While serving the global population, land management is decided upon by individual land owners and managers that pursue different objectives and have different means. The GLOLAND project (ERC Consolidator Grant to Peter Verburg) addressed land as a socio-ecological system and explicitly addressed the different actors and decision making mechanisms that are important to land use change. Insights in decision making and the variety of land systems were included in a land systems model that simulates changes between different land management systems including agricultural systems that range from shifting cultivation for subsistence needs to large-scale land acquisitions serving the global value chains. The land systems model CLUMondo was applied both on national and global scales. For the global scale the model allowed making an exploration of how land systems globally would look like if the agreed international targets that relate to land restoration and reforestation would be achieved. This simulation sheds insights in the trade-offs embedded in such targets and the possible pathways of achieving such global targets.

For more information contact Prof. Peter Verburg

European flag This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under Grant Agreement No. 311819

Sustainable land management and cities

Food4CitiesBy 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. Africa will account for more than two thirds of this growth, and costs of food insecurity and malnutrition – historically considered a rural problem – will increasingly be transferred to cities. Acknowledging this challenge, this project aims to promote sustainable and nutrition-secure city food systems in Africa by developing knowledge and tools for local and national development planning.

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We are facing a global phosphorus challenge. Phosphorus is a limited resource, which is unevenly distributed globally, while at the same time excess phosphorus causes widespread pollution. In other words, there is too little P for food production, yet too much in the environment. Solving this challenge cut across many different disciplines and sectors, including waste, environment, agriculture and food. RecaP is an Innovative Training Network (ITN) that will address the changing Phosphorus (P) needs by creating a new generation of P specialists to become ‘knowledge brokers’ across disciplinary silos. RecaP will develop novel methods to capture and recover phosphorus, will explore more sustainable ways of utilising and recycling phosphorus, and will explore and address barriers and opportunities for sustainable phosphorus management at multiple scales. 

Contact information: Dr Nynke Schulp.

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EG_sustainable settlementsHuman settlements, ranging from villages to metropolises, are at the core of many sustainability challenges. They are locations of economic growth and home to the vast majority of the global population. At the same time, settlements compete with food production and nature for the limited amount of land, and are increasingly vulnerable to climate change impacts. As settlements are changing at unprecedented rates, there is now room to steer towards more sustainable trajectories. Land use models are important tools to explore future settlement change trajectories. However, current large-scale models only represent built-up land, and disregard different types of settlements. Therefore, they cannot analyse alternative settlement change trajectories or evaluate policies that aim to reduce potential negative impacts of these changes.

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Sustainable Intensification of agriculture (SI) is advocated by both, scientists and policy makers, as a solution for the dilemma between the need to increase agricultural production and the need to reduce the environmental burden which intensification historically entailed. Yet it is largely unclear, if and how this potential win-win situation can be realized. The overall objective of SIPATH is to operationalize the somewhat fuzzy concept of SI. We will establish a strong conceptual framework on agricultural intensification, which we will confront with empirical data to understand the mechanisms of agricultural development in Europe over the past decades, and with mega-trends, including climatic, societal and technological developments that are likely to affect the future of agriculture in Europe. Based on the improved understanding gained, the goal is then to identify potential pathways of SI at the continental, but regionally differentiated scale.

Contact information: Dr Christian Levers and Prof. Peter Verburg.

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Terra NovaEuropean societies have exploited and managed their landscapes for millennia, but recent rapid socioeconomic changes and high societal demands on the environment have become a challenge for land managers. Climate and land use changes are recognized as the greatest threats to biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being. Land planning decisions for the future need to be based on a deeper knowledge about the physical, social, and cultural characteristics of the landscapes and the possible impacts of alternative land use and management developments. 

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Large societal challenges related to food security and environmental degradation have caused increasing attention for sustainable intensification (SI). SI cannot be implemented through a generic, single development pathway for all agricultural systems. Alternative pathways and actions to achieve SI depend on the local and regional agronomic, environmental and socio-economic conditions. The project VITAL explored transition processes of European agricultural systems towards sustainably intensified production accounting for the spatial variation in contextual conditions. VITAL identified distinct Fields of Action for sustainable intensification that are relevant across agricultural systems, and showed how the spatial contexts of agricultural systems and the role of actors, lead to, or inhibit, alternate transition processes of SI. Accounting for these conditions, suitable spatial configurations of SI across different land use systems are identified. The feasibility of different SI pathways was upscaled to larger areas in Europe, hence moving beyond the level of individual farms and regions.

Contact information: Dr Nynke Schulp.

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