My research focus is on barriers to and facilitating factors for a transformation towards an environmentally sustainable agriculture in the German and European contexts. Against this background, I combine economic tools and insights with a social–ecological systems perspective within a deliberately interdisciplinary research approach. I am interested in understanding how the behaviour of individual agents and groups responds to policy interventions and translates into landscape-level (emergent) effects and associated trade-offs, and in the evaluation of these effects in terms of societal preferences.

Methodologically, I am a generalist; agent-based modelling has recently become a focus, as it is particularly well-suited to foster the understanding of the landscape-level effects of farmers‘ behaviour, technologies and incentives. Also, I have been working on economic valuation of ecosystem services and biodiversity, especially by means of stated preference methods such as discrete choice experiments. Furthermore, I consider interdisciplinary evidence synthesis and conceptual work highly important approaches, given the availability of vast amounts of scattered evidence in environmental sciences.

More specifically, I am interested in the following issues:

  • interactions between different instruments in the agri-environmental policy mix, especially between regulatory and incentive-based instruments;
  • determinants of farmers‘ environmentally relevant behaviour and its representation in agent-based models;
  • agri-environmental policy interventions triggering transformative vs. incremental changes;
  • trade-offs between various agri-environmental policy domains and unintended consequences of policy interventions on other policy objectives (e.g. effects of climate adaptation policy on soil management and the provision of soil functions).

These interests overlap, sometimes better, sometimes worse, with my current and recent research endeavours, which include:

Analysis and design of agri-environmental policy mix

My main work currently happens within the BMBF-funded (Federal Ministry of Education and Research) project BonaRes – Soil as a sustainable resource for a bioeconomy (project homepage). My work within BonaRes focuses on governance of agricultural soils, particularly analysis and design of policy instruments. In this context, I have been developing novel policy instruments to harness the potential offered by modern process-based modelling of soil functions (Bartkowski et al. 2021). The motivation is to increase the context-sensitivity of soil-related policy instruments. Also, I have looked at the broader institutional setting of agricultural soil management (Bartkowski et al. 2018) and the determinants of farmers‘ soil management decisions (Bartkowski and Bartke 2018) as important preconditions for a proper understanding of the soil policy mix. These insights are being collated in the governance part of BonaRes‘ Assessment, Foresight and Governance Platform. Among those, the Governance Platform provides governance-relevant information about actors involved in the soil policy field (farmers, food consumers, retailers etc.).

Going beyond soil management, I have been working with colleagues from natural sciences on ecosystem conservation and land-use policy in agricultural landscapes. Here, my focus has been on the identification of options for moving closer to the biophysical potential of agricultural landscapes to jointly provide multiple ecosystem services (Bartkowski et al. 2020).

Agent-based modelling and farmers‘ behaviour

Around 2018 I started putting agent-based modelling into the centre of my method portfolio. I consider this modelling approach as particularly promising in terms of addressing the research questions I am particularly interested in, i.e. how agri-environmental policy instrument mixes influence the land management decisions of individual farmers, and how this then translates into emergent landscape-level effects, e.g. in terms of the provision of ecosystem servies. Methodologically, I am particularly interested in rich and theory-based representations of agents‘ behaviour, e.g. by drawing upon social psychology theories (such as Christian Klöckner’s Comprehensive Action Determination Model, which combines the Theory of Planned Behaviour, Value-Belief-Norm theory and habits). More generally, proper understanding of the behaviour of relevant actors is a central element of my perspective on analysis and design of policy instruments. Since September 2019, I have been supervising a PhD student working experimentally into the determinants of farmers‘ behaviour with respect to various agri-environmental policy instruments.

Together with colleagues from the UFZ, I developed an approach for aligning agent-based modelling with multi-objective land-use allocation (ALABAMA) to better understand the interplay of the biophysical potential of landscapes for multifunctionality and behavioural, social and economic factors that affect the feasibility of reaching this potential (Bartkowski et al. 2020). The ALABAMA approach will be developed further by a PhD student I co-supervise.

Economic valuation of ecosystem services and biodiversity

Economic valuation has been a major topic for me during my PhD thesis. While not central anymore, it still has much importance to my work. Within BonaRes, I’m working on the economic valuation of soil-based ecosystem services (Bartkowski et al. 2020; more to come). Together with colleagues from the UFZ, we worked on the evaluation of model-optimized biophysical potential of landscapes to provide multiple ecosystem services with the help of preference information from economic valuation studies (Kaim et al., in press). A while ago, I collaborated with Marije Schaafsma (U of Southampton) and my former supervisor Nele Lienhoop (University of Applied Sciences Bochum) on a guidance paper for deliberative monetary valuation studies (Schaafsma et al. 2018).

Impacts and governance of agricultural technologies

An ongoing interest of mine is the societal role of agricultural tech innovations. In this context, I collaborated with colleagues from the universities of Halle-Wittenberg, Kassel and Bonn to provide some mainly conceptual insights into the economics, ethics and governance of CRISPR-based genome editing of food crops (see Bartkowski et al. 2018, Pirscher et al. 2018, Bartkowski 2019, Bartkowski and Baum 2019). Also, together with colleagues from Helsinki and Lund, we looked at bioeconomy a potential game-changer in modern agriculture from a scenario-oriented ecosystem service perspective (D’Amato et al. 2020). Meanwhile, at the UFZ, I have been involved in the development of land-use scenarios, including high-tech scenarios oriented towards sustainability.