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Ecological Economics

Modelling and conceptual foundation by the example of grazing in semi-arid regions.


Project period: April 2004 - September 2007


Project description and results:

The research project "Ecological Economics" has made an original and effective contribution to the modelling and conceptual foundation of ecological economics. This inter- and transdisciplinary research field studies the causes and enquires after sustainable solutions to environmental problems which are at the intersection of ecological and economic systems. As a concrete case we have derived basic principles of sustainable grazing management in semi-arid regions.

Important scientific results accrued at three levels of research:

(1) Philosophy of inter- and transdisciplinary environmental research

We have developed the CML-approach („comprehensive multi-level approach“), which is an encompassing methodological approach for inter- and transdisciplinary environmental re-search. It is founded in epistemology and philosophy of science, and comprises an operationalization at three levels of abstraction: concepts, (generic) models, and case studies.

(2) Enhancement of ecological economics

We have made contributions to the foundation of essential concepts of ecological economics: the descriptive concepts of stocks and variability/risk as well as the normative concepts of opti-mality and viability. We have developed fully integrated ecological-economic models and, for that sake, applied and enhanced the method of generic modelling. This enables the generalization of our results and their transfer to a wide spectrum of environmental problems.

(3) Basic principles of sustainable grazing management in semi-arid regions

For the ecological (vegetation) dynamics and for the economic benefits of grazing in semi-arid regions the precipitation risk plays a crucial role. Hence, adaptive ecological-economic management strategies are required that strengthen the ecosystem’s intrinsic buffer mechanisms. Socio-economic institutions must be designed and function so as to foster the application of such management strategies.


Principal investigators:

Prof. Dr. Stefan Baumgärtner (Leuphana University of Lüneburg)

PD Dr. Karin Frank (Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research UFZ Leipzig)


Project team: The project team comprised researchers from the Universities of Heidelberg and Lüneburg and from the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Leipzig, with backgrounds in ecology, economics and philosophy.


Contact: Prof. Dr. Stefan Baumgärtner


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