Do improved pollination services outweigh farm-economic disadvantages of working in small-structured agricultural landscapes? – Development and application of a bio-economic model

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Increases in the size of agricultural fields, the loss of permanent green field edges and other semi-natural habitats have accompanied the intensification of agriculture, and are still ongoing. From a farm economic perspective, an increase in field size increases efficiency mainly due to cost savings. However, recent evidence suggests that increases in field size might lead to the loss of ecosystem services provided by farmland biodiversity, but this trade-off is rarely considered. Here, we aim to quantify the economic and ecological effects of these changes by developing a bio-economic simulation-based land-use modelling framework based on spatially explicit data from an agricultural region in Germany. The results show a substantial decrease in flower visitation in oilseed rape when field sizes increase and permanent green edges are lost. This also leads to a decrease in pollination from wild bees and affects yields and farm economics. However, this loss in agricultural gross margin is overcompensated by economic gains of field enlargement. We conclude that further, more comprehensive evaluations are required and suggest that maintaining fine-grained agricultural landscapes with permanent field margins in the long term may require incentives to farmers, as well as innovations that allow to farm small fields at lower costs.


  • Stefan Kirchweger
  • Yann Clough
  • Martin Kapfer
  • Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter
  • Jochen Kantelhardt
External organisations
  • Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg
  • Studiengruppe für internationale Analysen (STUDIA)
  • Bayerische Landesanstalt für Landwirtschaft
  • University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
Original languageEnglish
Article number106535
JournalEcological Economics
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Publication categoryResearch