Landscape Ecology

, Volume 27, Issue 9, pp 1363–1381 | Cite as

An agent-based approach to modeling impacts of agricultural policy on land use, biodiversity and ecosystem services

  • Mark Brady
  • Christoph Sahrbacher
  • Konrad Kellermann
  • Kathrin Happe
Research Article


We present extensions to the agent-based agricultural policy simulator (AgriPoliS) model that make it possible to simulate the consequences of agricultural policy reform on farmers’ land use decisions and concomitant impacts on landscape mosaic, biodiversity and ecosystem services in a real agricultural region. An observed population of farms is modelled as a multi-agent system where individual farm-agent behaviour and their interactions—principally competition for land—are defined through an optimization framework with land use and landscape impacts resulting as emergent properties of the system. The model is calibrated to real data on the farms and the landscape to be studied. We illustrate the utility of the model by evaluating the potential impacts of three alternative frameworks for the European Union Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on landscape values in two marginal agricultural regions. Mosaic value was found to be sensitive to the choice of policy scheme in one of the landscapes, whereas significant trade-offs were shown to occur in terms of species richness by habitat and species composition at the landscape scale in both regions. The relationship between food production and other ecosystem services was found to be multifaceted. Thus illustrating the difficulty of achieving landscape goals in a particular region with simple or general land management rules (such as the current rules attached to CAPs direct payments). Given the scarcity of funding for conservation, the level and conditions for allocating direct payments are, potentially, of great importance for preserving landscape values in marginal agricultural regions (subject to levels of other support).


Agent-based modeling (ABM) Landscape Policy CAP Agriculture Farming Biodiversity 



We thank Henrik Smith and colleagues at the AgriFood Economics Centre for comments on the manuscript, Martin Stjernman for help with the Swedish Board of Agriculture’s Block-Database, and Honor C. Prentice for literature and discussion in regard to the role of agricultural habitat in conservation of biodiversity. The initial model development was funded by the IDEMA project (\IDEMA) which was supported by the European Community’s Sixth Framework Programme (SSPE-CT-2003-502171). The writing of the paper has benefited from Mark Brady’s participation in the FORMAS financed Excellent Research Environment SAPES (

Supplementary material

10980_2012_9787_MOESM1_ESM.docx (387 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 387 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Brady
    • 1
  • Christoph Sahrbacher
    • 2
  • Konrad Kellermann
    • 2
  • Kathrin Happe
    • 2
  1. 1.AgriFood Economics Centre, Department of EconomicsSwedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)LundSweden
  2. 2.Institute of Agricultural Development in Central and Eastern Europe (IAMO)Halle (Saale)Germany

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