Human land use and agriculture in particular are the principle drivers of many of our biggest environmental challenges. At the same time, current food systems fail to provide food security to all consumers or decent livelihoods to all farmers worldwide. This research will help identify ways to use our land better and to move our food system towards enhanced sustainability by examining key knowledge gaps through interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and cross-scalar research.

Scientific significance

Given the importance of agriculture for human well-being and its huge environmental impact, it is sobering to note that the drivers, land management options and practices of truly sustainable agricultural land use are still largely unknown. This is largely due to the still prevalent disciplinary approach to agricultural research, which prevents the identification of interactions and trade-offs between different socio-economic and environmental dimensions of land use. This research will therefore use cutting-edge quantitative and qualitative methods from a range of different disciplines, ranging from local field surveys and farmer interviews, to regional and global data synthesis and modelling studies, to examine holistically the sustainability of different agricultural land use strategies.

Societal relevance

Achieving sustainable land use and sustainable food security represents one of the most important societal challenges of the coming decades. Our research will not only address key knowledge gaps, but also contribute to the identification of levers for the sustainable transformation of our food systems through solutions-oriented and transdisciplinary research. By adopting an applied and human-centered research approach our work will examine research questions and provide answers that are directly relevant for different food system actors and policy-makers.


Richard Fuchs

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Mahmoud Nady

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China and India dominate in greening the Earth

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Benefits of linking socio‐ecological models

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Agriculture Publications

Synes, N. W.; Brown, C.; Palmer, S. C. F.; Bocedi, G.; Osborne, P. E.; Watts, K.; Franklin, J.; Travis, J. M. J.
Coupled land use and ecological models reveal emergence and feedbacks in socio-ecological systems.
2018. Ecography. doi:10.1111/ecog.04039
Huber, R.; Bakker, M.; Balmann, A.; Berger, T.; Bithell, M.; Brown, C.; Grêt-Regamey, A.; Xiong, H.; Le, Q. B.; Mack, G.; Meyfroidt, P.; Millington, J.; Müller, B.; Polhill, J. G.; Sun, Z.; Seidl, R.; Troost, C.; Finger, R.
Representation of decision-making in European agricultural agent-based models [in press].
2018. Agricultural systems, 167, 143–160. doi:10.1016/j.agsy.2018.09.007
Frei, B.; Renard, D.; Mitchell, M. G. E.; Seufert, V.; Chaplin-Kramer, R.; Rhemtulla, J. M.; Bennett, E. M.
Bright spots in agricultural landscapes: Identifying areas exceeding expectations for multifunctionality and biodiversity.
2018. Journal of applied ecology, 2731–2743. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.13191
Muneret, L.; Mitchell, M.; Seufert, V.; Aviron, S.; Djoudi, E. A.; Pétillon, J.; Plantegenest, M.; Thiéry, D.; Rusch, A.
Evidence that organic farming promotes pest control.
2018. Nature Sustainability, 1 (7), 361–368. doi:10.1038/s41893-018-0102-4
Nicholls, E.; BOTÍAS, C. R. I. S. T. I. N. A.; Rotheray, E. L.; Whitehorn, P.; David, A.; Fowler, R.; David, T.; Feltham, H.; Swain, J. L.; Wells, P.; Hill, E. M.; Osborne, J. L.; Goulson, D.
Monitoring neonicotinoid exposure for bees in rural and peri-urban areas of the UK during the transition from pre- to post-moratorium [in press].
2018. Environmental science & technology. doi:10.1021/acs.est.7b06573
Henry, R. C.; Engström, K.; Olin, S.; Alexander, P.; Arneth, A.; Rounsevell, M. D. A.
Food supply and bioenergy production within the global cropland planetary boundary.
2018. (P. C. Struik, Ed.)PLoS one, 13 (3), Art. Nr.: e0194695. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0194695Full text Full text of the publication as PDF document
Li, S.; Juhász-Horváth, L.; Pintér, L.; Rounsevell, M. D. A.; Harrison, P. A.
Modelling regional cropping patterns under scenarios of climate and socio-economic change in Hungary.
2018. The science of the total environment, 622-623, 1611–1620. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.10.038
Brown, C.; Alexander, P.; Holzhauer, S.; Rounsevell, M. D. A.
Behavioral models of climate change adaptation and mitigation in land-based sectors.
2017. Wiley interdisciplinary reviews / Climate change, 8 (2), Art.Nr. e448. doi:10.1002/wcc.448
Li, S.; Juhász-Horváth, L.; Harrison, P. A.; Pintér, L.; Rounsevell, M. D. A.
Relating farmer’s perceptions of climate change risk to adaptation behaviour in Hungary.
2017. Journal of environmental management, 185, 21–30. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2016.10.051
Alexander, P.; Brown, C.; Arneth, A.; Finnigan, J.; Moran, D.; Rounsevell, M. D. A.
Losses, inefficiencies and waste in the global food system.
2017. Agricultural systems, 153, 190–200. doi:10.1016/j.agsy.2017.01.014Full text Full text of the publication as PDF document
Martin, E. A.; Seo, B.; Park, C.-R.; Reineking, B.; Steffan-Dewenter, I.
Scale-dependent effects of landscape composition and configuration on natural enemy diversity, crop herbivory, and yields.
2016. Ecological applications, 26 (2), 448–462. doi:10.1890/15-0856
Seo, B.; Bogner, C.; Koellner, T.; Reineking, B.
Mapping Fractional Land Use and Land Cover in a Monsoon Region: The Effects of Data Processing Options.
2016. IEEE journal of selected topics in applied earth observations and remote sensing, 9 (9), 3941–3956. doi:10.1109/JSTARS.2016.2544802
Harrison, P. A.; Dunford, R. W.; Holman, I. P.; Rounsevell, M.
Climate change impact modelling needs to include cross-sectoral interactions.
2016. Nature climate change, 6 (9), 885–890. doi:10.1038/nclimate3039
Engström, K.; Olin, S.; Rounsevell, M. D. A.; Brogaard, S.; van Vuuren, D. P.; Alexander, P.; Murray-Rust, D.; Arneth, A.
Assessing uncertainties in global cropland futures using a conditional probabilistic modelling framework.
2016. Earth System Dynamics, 7 (4), 893–915. doi:10.5194/esd-7-893-2016Full text Full text of the publication as PDF document
Prestele, R.; Alexander, P.; Rounsevell, M. D. A.; Arneth, A.; Calvin, K.; Doelman, J.; Eitelberg, D. A.; Engström, K.; Fujimori, S.; Hasegawa, T.; Havlik, P.; Humpenöder, F.; Jain, A. K.; Krisztin, T.; Kyle, P.; Meiyappan, P.; Popp, A.; Sands, R. D.; Schaldach, R.; Schüngel, J.; Stehfest, E.; Tabeau, A.; Van Meijl, H.; Van Vliet, J.; Verburg, P. H.
Hotspots of uncertainty in land-use and land-cover change projections: a global-scale model comparison.
2016. Global change biology, 22 (12), 3967–3983. doi:10.1111/gcb.13337Full text Full text of the publication as PDF document
Alexander, P.; Brown, C.; Arneth, A.; Finnigan, J.; Rounsevell, M. D. A.
Human appropriation of land for food : The role of diet.
2016. Global environmental change, 41, 88–98. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2016.09.005
Engström, K.; Rounsevell, M. D. A.; Murray-Rust, D.; Hardacre, C.; Alexander, P.; Cui, X.; Palmer, P. I.; Arneth, A.
Applying Occam’s razor to global agricultural land use change.
2016. Environmental modelling & software, 75, 212–229. doi:10.1016/j.envsoft.2015.10.015Full text Full text of the publication as PDF document
Shope, C. L.; Maharjan, G. R.; Tenhunen, J.; Seo, B.; Kim, K.; Riley, J.; Arnhold, S.; Koellner, T.; Ok, Y. S.; Peiffer, S.; Kim, B.; Park, J.-H.; Huwe, B.
Using the SWAT model to improve process descriptions and define hydrologic partitioning in South Korea.
2014. Hydrology and earth system sciences, 18 (2), 539–557. doi:10.5194/hess-18-539-2014Full text Full text of the publication as PDF document
Seo, B.; Bogner, C.; Poppenborg, P.; Martin, E.; Hoffmeister, M.; Jun, M.; Koellner, T.; Reineking, B.; Shope, C. L.; Tenhunen, J.
Deriving a per-field land use and land cover map in an agricultural mosaic catchment.
2014. Earth system science data, 6 (2), 339–352. doi:10.5194/essd-6-339-2014Full text Full text of the publication as PDF document
Martin, E. A.; Reineking, B.; Seo, B.; Steffan-Dewenter, I.
Natural enemy interactions constrain pest control in complex agricultural landscapes.
2013. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110 (14), 5534–5539. doi:10.1073/pnas.1215725110
Thanh Nguyen, T.; Hoang, V.-N.; Seo, B.
Cost and environmental efficiency of rice farms in South Korea.
2012. Agricultural economics, 43 (4), 369–378. doi:10.1111/j.1574-0862.2012.00589.x