German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)

Research Projects

The Biodiversity Economics research group aims at improving the scientific basis for sustainability in human-nature relationships, studying the sustainable use of renewable natural resources (e.g. marine fisheries, rangelands, forests) and conservation of biodiversity from regional to global. We study how economic incentives shape behavior towards nature, what sustainability – understood as justice in human-nature relationships – means, and how economic policy instruments could contribute to that end. Our methodical expertise comprises quantitative ecological-economic modeling, dynamic optimization, statistics, economic experiments, conceptual modeling, game theory and capital theory.

Towards a comprehensive valuation of natural capital in Germany: Methods and approaches to deal with limited information and uncertainty (ValuGaps)

Consortium: Martin Quaas, Aletta Bonn, Julian Sagebiel, Sophie Lokatis, Maria Schnabel, Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig; Stefan Baumgärtner, Nadja Leschka, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg (ALU); Moritz Drupp, Björn Bos, Pier Basaglia, Simon Disque, Jonas Grunau, Universität Hamburg (UHH); Britta Tietjen, Fanny Langerwisch, Freie Universität Berlin (FU); Harry Gölz, Beyhan Ekinci, Veronika Liebelt, Bundesamt für Naturschutz (BfN); Björn Bünger,  Astrid Matthey, Jan Philipp Schägner, Umweltbundesamt (UBA); Burkhard Schweppe-Kraft


Biodiversity and natural capital contribute fundamentally to human well-being. So far, societal decision-making only partly takes these values into account. One major reason are large information gaps and uncertainties. The few existing original valuation studies have not been systematically selected, typically consider only a subset of values, and treat ecological-economic dynamics and uncertainties only implicitly. ValuGaps responds to the need for comprehensive, reliable, and scalable values of natural capital and biodiversity for societal decision-making, as experienced by public authorities in Germany, especially the German Environment Agency (UBA) and the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN).


ValuGaps considers multi-dimensional economic, relational, and health values and asks the following questions:  

  1. Where do societal decision-makers and stakeholders face the largest information gaps and uncertainties with respect to different values of biodiversity and natural capital? 
  2. How to scale, transfer, and bridge different types of values across (i) space and time, (ii) groups of beneficiaries, and (iii) types of ecosystems in a practical, scientifically and normatively sound way? By means of integrated ecological-economic modelling, behavioural experiments, and surveys, we specifically ask
    1. What are the key parameters required to value natural capital in a scalable and transferable way, and how can their values be quantified or constrained?
    2. How do uncertainties propagate when scaling, transferring or bridging values?
  3. How can societal decision-makers make best use of valuation, and how do and how should they deal with uncertainties?


ValuGaps will develop the interdisciplinary scientific basis for comprehensively taking into account natural capital values in policy making, accounting and planning. The approach will be exemplified and tested for grasslands as the prime case study, and for smaller case studies on temperate forests, marine fish and urban green space. As a transdisciplinary project where scientists closely cooperate with the key federal agencies in the domain, UBA and BfN, and by establishing a reference-stakeholder network, ValuGaps will significantly contribute to mainstreaming the value of biodiversity in decision-making, a political commitment under the CBD Aichi Target 2.


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ValuGaps is funded for its main phase by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of its research initiative for the conservation of biodiversity:


Food security and sustained coastal livelihoods through linking land and ocean (FOCUS)

Sustainable food production is a central element of a future bioeconomy. However, many food production systems on land and in the oceans are under pressure from intensive human use and global environmental changes.

FOCUS aims to globally assess the economic effects of climate change on marine ecosystem services and agriculture. Together with partners from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Climate Impacts and Vulnerabilities and Dalhousie University, we will couple a global agricultural sector and land-use model in combination with a new global bio-economic fisheries model to quantify climate change effects on food production, food security and rural livelihoods for the coastal areas around the world.  In collaboration with practitioners, we will develop policy approaches for integrating a well-managed, linked land-ocean system into the bioeconomy.

Scenarios of Marine Biodiversity and Evolution under Exploitation and climate change (SOMBEE)

SOMBEE addresses the role of eco-evolutionary dynamics and their consequences for the sustainable exploitation of fish resources in the future. To this end, we will build and test scenarios of the combined pressure of fishing and climate change on both intra- and inter-specific marine biodiversity, by explicitly modelling the phenotypic plasticity of fish life-history traits, their selection and adaptive evolution, and their genetic drift for multiple interacting species. The objectives are to:

  • develop a cutting edge evolutionary ecosystem model with primary focus on fish;
  • apply it to a set of 6 contrasting ecosystems to better understand the selective pressures exertedby fishing and climate change;
  • project future changes in intra- and inter-specific biodiversity and related fishing production and economic profit under combined climate and fishing scenarios and
  • quantify the synergistic and antagonistic ecological, evolutionary and economic impacts of these drivers.

SOMBEE will advance knowledge on the capacity of fish communities to adapt to global change and our ability to forecast their persistence and the future sustainability of fisheries and food production.


This project is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) for a period of three years.

Marine ecological-economic systems in the Western Baltic Sea and beyond: Shifting the baseline to a regime of sustainability (marEEshift)

marEEshift pursues the following overall scientific aims:

1. identify processes that increase or decrease the resilience of marine ecological-economic systems.

2. identify and initiate measures, institutions, and processes that could foster a resilient ecological-economic system of marine resource use in a regime of sustainability. This may require a regime shift from the current state of over-use towards a new resilient regime of sustainability.

To achieve these aims, we will study historical regime shifts in the Western Baltic Sea and beyond. We will explore the combinations of ecological, environmental (incl. climate-related), economic, social, and political drivers that have caused tipping points in the Western Baltic Sea and in cod-fisheries throughout the Northern Atlantic in the past.

In addition to that, we will study the effects of environmental change as well as multi-species interactions and multiple stakeholders on the resilience of the Western Baltic marine ecological-economic system, where commercial and recreational fisheries on cod and herring interact.

Besides analyzing what a regime of sustainability would be in the context of this specific ecological-economic system, we will explore the potential for a shift towards a regime of sustainability for the Western Baltic as a model case.

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This project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research for a period of three years.

Partners are the University of Hamburg, University of Freiburg, Thünen Institute of Baltic Sea Fisheries, and Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) in the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.


Social-Ecological Tipping Points of the Northern Humboldt Current Upwelling System, Economic Repercussions and Governance Strategies (Humboldt-Tipping)

The project assesses the risk of decreases in marine ecosystem productivity as a tipping point for the interlinked ecological, economic and social systems of the Northern Humboldt Upwelling System (HUS). The extreme variability in climate-related productivity of this upwelling system impacts local livelihoods and worldwide markets. One focus of the project is the pelagic, offshore system supplying the industrial Peruvian anchoveta fishery and its regional and global repercussions through export to international markets. The second focus are coastal and insular (Galapagos) systems, where artisanal fisheries, aquaculture and ecotourism are key maritime activities for provision of livelihoods. With a consortium of biogeochemists, fisheries ecologists, ocean and ecosystem modellers, economists, social scientists and key stakeholders, both from Germany and Peru, we will work on understanding feedbacks between ecological, social and economic dynamics in the HUS. Based on an array of modelling efforts and tightly linked input from stakeholders, we will explore possible adaptation schemes and derive governance recommendations to reduce the risk of impacts of tipping points on the regional economy and increase the resilience of coastal communities in Peru.


This project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research for a period of three years.

Partners are GEOMAR, University of Bremen, University of Hamburg, ZMT Bremen, Pontificia Universidad
Católica del Perú, and IMARPE, Peru.

Adaptation of the Western Baltic Coastal Fishery to Climate Change (balt_ADAPT)

balt_ADAPT aims to research into the adaptation strategies of small-scale coastal fisheries of cod and herring in the western Baltic Sea (WBS) to climate change. The balt_ADAPT is divided into 4 work-packages (WP) with the following aims:

  • WP1: provide new scientific knowledge on the vulnerability of the biodiversity in the WBS fish community to climate change as a basis for anticipating its future dynamics 
  • WP2: conduct a biodiversity and food web indicator assessment as a means to evaluate ecosystem state and support the implementation of ecosystem-based management in the WBS
  • WP3: develop robust management strategies applying single- and multi-species (cod and herring) ecological – economic fisheries as well as a complex food web model crucial in predictions and projections under climate change and exploitation scenarios
  • WP4: create narratives of climate adaptation pathways that illustrate the unfolding of several alternative WBS biodiversity and fisheries futures under climate change emission and socio-economic resource use scenarios as a basis for sustainable, just and fair long-term policy planning


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This project is one of a total of seven projects from the KüNO III network, which is funded by the BMBF framework program "Research for Sustainable Development (FONA)” for a period of three years.

Partners are the University of Hamburg, Thünen Institute of Baltic Sea Fisheries, GEOMAR, and the Christian-Albrecht Universität zu Kiel.

Setup of international cooperations: Spoiling Fish as Food: Harmful Algal Blooms in Lake Victoria

The project supports the establishment of a long term cooperation with Cornell University Professors Chris Barrett and K. Fiorella to support joint research on bio-economic systems with nutrition and health implications. In a first step, we aim to analyze how fish consumers understand and respond to harmful algae blooms in Lake Victoria.  These blooms produce toxic compounds that may accumulate in food fish. We use market data as well as a consumer choice experiment to assess consumer exposure and its socio-economic determinants, as well as to estimate consumer response to information policies.


This project is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) for a one year period.

Partners are Prof. Barrett and Prof. Fiorella at Cornell University.

A first carbon based risk assessment on mesopelagic resources, stressors and protection (CO2Meso)


Prof. Dr. Andreas Oschlies, Dr. Julia Getzlaff, Dr. Helena Hauss, Dr. Henk-Jan Hoving, GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel; Prof. Dr. Martin Quaas, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig; University of Leipzig, Prof. Dr. Alexander Proelß, University of Hamburg

Contact person in Leipzig: Hanna Schenk


Mesopelagic organisms are potentially a large resource for humankind’s increased demand for high- quality food. While they are unlikely to be of direct consumption value for humans, its exploitation for fish meal might still be of large economically value. However, their global biomass, distribution, growth, reproduction as well as their role in the biological carbon pump are not yet well constrained. Impacts of anthropogenic stressors (e.g. climate change) as well as of a commercial exploitation are largely unclear. These include impacts on ecology (food webs) and consequences for carbon sequestration and the biological carbon pump. Given the many unknowns and uncertainties so far, it is unclear how stock management could or should be designed to prevent overfishing and ensure a sustainable fishery.

The project CO2Meso aims to provide a foresight analysis of the potential and risks of mesopelagic fishery to inform decision makers and to generate the scientific knowledge required for developing sustainable governance approaches well before the exploitation starts.


Work packages:

WP 1: Biogeochemical food-web modelling (Kiel)

WP 2: Observational data (Kiel)

WP 3: Socio-economics (Leipzig)

WP 4: International law (Hamburg)


The project is Sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) / Research programme MARE:N (January 2021 – December 2023)
Coordination: GEOMAR, Dr. Julia Getzlaff

See also:

Completed Research Projects

A selection of completed projects of our Biodiversity Economics research group is displayed below.

LEarning About Cloud modification under risk and uncertainty: Investigation of feasibility, traceability, Incentives and de-centralised governance of limited-area climate engineering (LEAC – II)

Climate engineering (CE) has been proposed as a means of last resort to combat dangerous global change. However, numerous concerns arise when considering a possible implementation, or even a large field experiment. In particular, questions arise with respect to the incentives for a party to conduct a field experiment or deploy CE, the consequences for other parties, and the changing incentives for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions (ongoing research in LEAC-I). Yet, CE can be differentiated and scaled in many dimensions, and the transition from a field experiment to the deployment of CE is blurred.

LEAC-II will address the following questions:

1. Feasibility: To which extent is it possible to generate a localized climate response to a localized forcing?

2. Incentives: What is the spatial correlation of economic preferences with respect to climate variables?

3. Economic implications: What are possible welfare implications of limited-area CE when countries implement limited-area CE and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in an uncoordinated way?

4. Traceability: What does it take to detect and attribute a limited-area effect of a CE measure, and to reject the hypothesis that climate events outside the targeted area are affected by the CE measure?

5. Governance: How to regulate limited-area CE most efficiently, given the uncertainties in predictability and traceability?


This project was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) for a period of three years.

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