Thesis subject

Analysis of environmental effects of agri-environmental measures (1)

The Environmental Systems Analysis Group provides the possibility for students to do their thesis in collaboration with our group. This is one of many possible thesis subjects. Please feel free to contact dr Van Bussel (right) for more information.

In addition to providing private goods such as food, fibre and biomass, agriculture can deliver a variety of environmental public goods and ecosystem services, like biodiversity conservation, water filtering, carbon sequestration and landscape aesthetics for recreation. Often, however, the use of agricultural landscapes prioritizes the provision of private goods, resulting in negative environmental impacts, such as soil erosion, nitrate leaching, or habitat and biodiversity loss, which also decreases the ability to provide environmental public goods and ecosystem services. To address this imbalance in the provision of private and public goods, targeted policy instruments are required to ensure that public goods are provided at the level desired by society. Contract-based approaches such as publicly funded agri-environmental-climate measures (AECM) in the context of Rural Development Programs (RDPs) and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) or privately negotiated and funded Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) can be important components of a diverse policy mix to support the provision of environmental public goods. But, even though such contract-based approaches already exist, the provision of environmental public goods by rural landscapes is currently not optimal. This calls for novel contract-based approaches which provide the right incentives to farmers to produce more environmental public goods and also allow them to have an appropriate income. A new, large EU project Contracts2.0 aims to develop these novel contract-based approaches.

The aim of this MSc thesis related to this EU project is to analyse existing agri-environmental schemes for their effects on the environment. You will develop a framework based on generic rules informed by expert knowledge and simple impact models. The analysis will consider the following aspects: 1) the effects of the existing contract-based schemes on the implemented farming/land use measures, 2) the effects of the farming/land use measures on the provision of private goods and environmental public goods and ecosystem services, and 3) the causal feedback-loops between provided services and farming/land use measures. You will apply the developed framework to identify win-win and trade-off situations between the provision of private and environmental public goods. This information will be used to develop novel contract-based agri-environmental schemes.

Start time: autumn 2019