Securing the Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity of Extensively Managed Cultural Landscapes (EcoCult)

Official German Title

Sicherung der Ökosystemdienstleistungen und Biodiversität von extensiv bewirtschafteten Kulturlandschaften (ÖkoKult)


01.08.2016 - 31.07.2022


Research Partner: Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development

(Prof. Uta Steinhardt, Landscape Ecology and Land Use Planning)

Research Partner: Leuphana University Lüneburg

(Prof. Werner Härdtle, Landscape Ecology)

Operational Partner: Stiftung Naturschutzpark Lüneburger Heide (VNP)

official project website


Cultural landscapes with habitat complexes containing cropland, heath and open habitat-woodland ecotones provide crucial ecosystem services, e.g. C- and N-sequestration, groundwater recharge or socio-economic services. In addition, they are of high recreational value and represent a valuable component of Central-Europe’s cultural heritage. Furthermore, they are important refugia for a large number of animal, plant and fungal species that are increasingly endangered and characteristic of nutrient poor habitats. At the same time such cultural landscapes are currently under threat from factors such as habitat fragmentation, nutrient input (especially nitrogen) and climate change.

In the context of this interdisciplinary project, the ecosystem services and characteristic biodiversity supported by such cultural landscapes are to be quantitatively and qualitatively assessed. Furthermore, in consideration of the above mentioned factors threatening such landscapes, novel and adaptive management and restitutive restoration practices are to be developed. Concurrently, all practices will be evaluated based on their economic viability, their legality (in terms of conservational planning) as well as their public acceptance and, therefore, ultimately their applicability and transferability within the study region and beyond. In this way, the ecosystem services, but also the biodiversity characteristic of such landscapes are to be secured in the long term.

In consideration of pre-existing knowledge and in close cooperation between research and  operational partners, the novel management and restitutive restoration practices will be developed in field experiments. In this context, the opportunities as well as the limitations of landscape and species conservation via so called ‘assisted migration’ will be tested on a number of target species. On the one hand, this should allow for the evaluation of the ecosystem resilience towards climate change (and the associated ecosystem services) and on the other hand the assessment of possibilities of supporting the dispersal of target species in nature conservation management.

Subjective properties, as perceived by human beings, are added to the objectively existing characteristics of landscape, i.e. the dissemination and particular composition of species as found in heathlands, soil conditions and  share of wooded areas. A multi-perspective approach will be used to get an understanding of all the immaterial benefits that human beings draw from their natural surroundings (cultural ecosystem services) in the 'Lüneburger Heide' area. To this end, methods typically used in the social and cultural sciences will be applied as well as GIS-supported processes. This will result in propositions of how cultural ecosystem services and the quality of life are related. These relations form the basis for a social legitimization of measures aimed at the protection of the natural environment.

The close cooperation between research and operational partners shall guarantee long-term  applicability and implementation of the results and experience gained within the project.


WP 1: Heathland Management  (Prof. Werner Härdtle, Dr. Walter Durka )

WP 2: Cropland Management  (Prof. Werner Haerdtle)

WP 3: Open Habitat – Woodland Ecotone Management (Prof. Werner Haerdtle)

WP 4: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, in particular provisioning and regulating services (Prof. Werner Haerdtle)

WP 5: Cultural Ecosystem Services (Prof. Uta Steinhardt, Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development)

WP 6: Evaluation of conservational, economic and legal applicability (Kompetenzzentrum Ökolandbau Niedersachsen (Carolin Grieshop), Arbeitsgruppe Land und Wasser (Prof. Dr. Thomas Kaiser), Prof. hc. mult. Dr. jur. Hans Walter Louis LL.M)

As an operational partner the VNP is engaged in all work packages.

The Network-Project with the title „Sicherung der Ökosystemdienstleistungen und Biodiversität von extensiv bewirtschafteten Kulturlandschaften (ÖkoKult)"is co-funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the joint framework “Research on the Implementation of the National Biodiversity Strategy”(R&I NBS) and within the BMUB also via the federal programme on Biological Diversity. 

Jointly funded by the BMBF and BMU/BfN.