Environmental Management

, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 251–266 | Cite as

Studies on Agri-environmental Measures: A Survey of the Literature

  • Sandra UthesEmail author
  • Bettina Matzdorf


Agri-environmental measures (AEM) are incentive-based instruments in the European Union (EU) that provide payments to farmers for voluntary environmental commitments related to preserving and enhancing the environment and maintaining the cultural landscape. We review the AEM literature and provide an overview of important research topics, major research results and future challenges as discussed in the available literature concerning these measures. This review contributes to the existing literature by attempting to equally consider ecological and economic perspectives. The reviewed articles are analyzed regarding their regional focus, topics and methods. The analytical section of the article seeks to discuss commonly asked questions about AEM on the basis of results from reviewed studies. The vast amount of available literature provides valuable insights into specific cases and reveals a complex picture with few general conclusions. The existing research is usually either biased toward ecological or economic perspectives and fails to provide a holistic picture of the problems and challenges within agri-environmental programming (e.g., multiple measures, multiple target areas, legal aspects, financial constraints, transaction costs). Most empirical studies provide detailed insights into selected individual measures but are incapable of providing results at a level relevant to decision-making, as they neglect the role of farmers and the available AEM budget. Predominantly economic approaches often only consider rough assumptions of ecological and economic processes and are also not suitable for decision-making. Decision-support tools that build on these disciplinary results and simultaneously consider scheme factors and environmental conditions at high spatial resolution for application by the responsible authorities are rare and require further research.


Agri-environmental measures Incentive-based instruments Conservation measures Extensification Payments for environmental services Ecological-economic modeling 



Our work was supported by funding from the EU-funded collaborative research project SPARD: Spatial Analysis of Rural Development Measures—Providing a tool for better policy targeting (Project Reference Number 244944). The opinions expressed are the sole responsibility of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Socio-economicsLeibniz-Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF)MünchebergGermany

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