Social-Ecological Interactions in Agricultural Systems Lab

About the lab

The overarching aim of our group – which is affiliated with the University of Kassel and the University of Göttingen – is to improve the sustainability of agriculture and other forms of land management through the enhanced understanding of their linkages to biodiversity, ecosystem services, and landscape change. We advocate for innovative, holistic and interdisciplinary approaches that integrate methods from the social and ecological sciences. Our research is rooted in the emerging fields of social-ecological systems, land change science and landscape sustainability science.

Twitter account:

Featured projects (1)

ENVISION is a transdisciplinary research project that develops, tests and validates a novel, inclusive scenario approach for engaging multiple stakeholders in protected areas management and biodiversity decision-making at multiple scales. We aim to develop a coherent set of tools and processes for systematically identifying, assessing and comparing PA management visions based on past drivers of change and the consequences of modelled scenarios on multiple aspects of biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being. Scenarios used to derive the associated visions will include land-use change, invasive species, climate change, tourism, forestry, mining, indigenous use of natural resources, and water resources planning and governance. ENVISION addresses the research questions of: 1) to what extent is balancing diverse visions possible and, 2) how can strategies based on collectively defined visions be translated into protected area management at multiple scales? Funded by BiodivERsA ERA-Net

Featured research (36)

Studies on cultural ecosystem services (CES) in urban forests using Public Participation GIS mapping are a well-established field of research. However, far fewer studies do exist that also illuminate perceived disservices, thus omitting an important part of human-forest relation- ships. Advancing knowledge on unpleasant places can promote outdoor recreation and help forest managers focus on disservices that matter. This study aims at spatially identifying people’s perceptions in urban forests with focus on unpleasant experiences. We elicited perceived disservices and CES spatially by collecting Public Participation GIS data (PPGIS) from city dwellers in three urban forests in Germany’s Southwest (755 respondents mapped 1552 places of disservices). We investigated relationships between sociodemographic char- acteristics and the number of mapped places using Spearman’s rank. We also explored the spatial concurrence between disservices and CES using Spearman’s rank. We identified a hierarchy of importance of forest visitors’ perceived dislikes. We revealed that negative perceptions of urban forest visitors originated broadly from people and their traces and rarely from the ecosystem according to existing ecosystem disservices typologies (EDS). We found a significant relationship between age and the number of mapped services. We found clusters of disliked places and correlations between disservices and CES, indicating that hotspots of CES in turn are also hotspots of disservices. We conclude that city foresters may best address disservices by advancing guidance-concepts for spatial movements of urban forest visitors within the forest to avoid conflicting clusters of various stakeholders. Our results may help city foresters to better manage both the forest and visitors’ various interests.
The development of societies, including spiritual development, is closely connected to forests. The larger interrelations among changing societies, transforming forest landscapes, and evolving spiritual values related to forests have yet to be extensively considered. Addressing this research gap is important to avoid the neglect of spiritual values in forest policy and management. Our exploratory study investigates spiritual values of forests from European and Asian perspectives, assessing 13 countries. Based on expert knowledge from 18 interdisciplinary experts, we first define forest spiritual values (forest spirituality). We then elaborate on the idea that forest spirituality evolves as societies and landscapes change, and propose a transition hypothesis for forest spirituality. We identify indicators and drivers and portray four stages of such a transition using country-specific examples. We find that during a first stage ("nature is powerful"), forest spirituality is omnipresent through the abundance of sacred natural sites and practices of people who often directly depend on forests for their livelihoods. An alternative form of spirituality is observed in the second stage ("taming of nature"). Connected to increasing transformation of forest landscapes and intensifying land-use practices, "modern" religions guide human-nature interrelations. In a third stage ("rational management of nature"), forest spirituality is overshadowed by planned rational forest management transforming forests into commodities for the economy, often focusing on provisioning ecosystem services. During a fourth stage ("reconnecting with nature"), a revival of forest spirituality (re-spiritualization) can be observed due to factors such as urbanization and individualizing spirituality. Our core contribution is in showing the connections among changing forest perceptions, changing land-use governance and practices, and changing forest spirituality. Increasing the understanding of this relationship holds promise for supporting forest policy-making and management in addressing trade-offs between spiritual values and other aspects of forests.
Landscape products link to low-input practices and traditional ecological knowledge, and have multiple functions supporting human well-being and sustainability. Here we explore seven landscape products worldwide to identify these multiple functions in the context of food commodification and landscape sustainability. We show that a landscape products lens can improve food systems by fostering sustainability strategies and standards that are place-sensitive, and as such can mitigate conflicts related to food production, social justice and the environment. Co-management strategies and information policies, such as certification, labelling, product information and raising of awareness could accelerate, incentivize and catalyse actions to support landscape products in the context of sustainability strategies.
We compare the use of PPGIS and Flickr in landscape value assessments. • Landscape values and their spatial patterns are compared across sites. • We find more cross-site differences than similarities both in spatial patterns and value types. • PPGIS elicits a wider spectrum of values, while Flickr mainly elicits relationships to and with landscapes. • We recommend a complementary use in future landscape value studies.
作为在社会 - 生态系统可持续发展研究领域颇具国际影响力的学者,普利宁格教授基于地中海区域对文化景观保护、农业系统变迁、生态系统服务和可持续转型进行了深入的研究。 目前,在全球气候变暖、农村凋敝、农业人口外流、耕地抛荒和土地利用方式变更的背景下,他将人与自然、社会与生态互动的视角运用到农业系统的保护与可持续发展当中,把“人“的角色回嵌于人文干预的生态环境的系统性保护之中。他的学术思想同时兼具对可持续发展科学跨学科的理论探索和社会 - 生态系统保护的现实关照。在不同群体对农业文化遗产研究和保护的关注日益增多的契机下,与相关领域学者的经验交流尤为必要,普利宁格教授因此应邀接受了 2021 年 9 月 13 日的专访及之后的系列讨论,以自身的研究实践来回应可持续发展的时代命题。现将访谈辑录成稿并翻译为中文,以期读者可以通过他生动轻松的讲述来了解其学术发展脉络、对景观和恢复性两个学术共同体融合的贡献、田野案例和工作方法,以及对传统农业系统保护的看法。

Lab head

Tobias Plieninger
  • Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development
About Tobias Plieninger
  • Tobias Plieninger is a Professor in Social-Ecological Interactions at the University of Göttingen and the University of Kassel (Germany). He is a sustainability scientist with a commitment to inter- and transdisciplinary research at the social-ecological interface. In particular, he studies rural landscape change, ecosystem services, and sustainability transformations. Twitter: @PlieningerLab. Blog:

Members (19)

Miguel Ángel Cebrián-Piqueras
  • Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Yves Zinngrebe
  • Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung
Mario Torralba
  • Universität Kassel
Z. Shakeri
  • University of Kurdistan, Sanandaj, Iran
Maria Garcia-Martin
  • Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL
Laura Kmoch
  • Universität Kassel
Claudia Heindorf
  • Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Haiyun Xu
  • Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture
Tobias Plieninger
Tobias Plieninger
  • Not confirmed yet

Alumni (5)

Christopher M. Raymond
  • University of Helsinki
Elisa Oteros-Rozas
  • University of Cordoba (Spain)
Nora Fagerholm
  • University of Turku
Carsten Mann
  • Technische Universität Berlin