Incentives for sustainable delivery of soil related ecosystem services

Authors and Affiliations: 

Carla J Grashof-Bokdam1, Anne M van Doorn1, Willemien Geertsema1, Martijn van der Heide2, Marcel Pleijte1, Nico BP Polman2, Jorieke I. Potters3, Marcel P. Vijn3

1 Wageningen Environmental Research, P.O. box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
2 Wageningen Economic Research, P.O. box 29703, 2502 LS Den Haag, The Netherlands
3 Wageningen Plant Research Lelystad, P.O. box 430, 8200 AK Lelystad, The Netherlands

Corresponding author: 
Carla J. Grashof-Bokdam

The main goal of this research project is to explore effective social-economic incentives to support a better balance between provisioning services (food and non-food products) and non-provisioning services (soil fertility, soil resilience, water purification/regulation, carbon storage and biodiversity). This balance is disturbed by the intensification of agriculture in Northwest Europe (Hart et al. 2013). Our hypothesis is that the effectivity of different types of incentives for restoring this balance, depends on the motivations of farmers), farming systems and on other circumstances.
We focus on the following issues (see also figure 1):
1. Combining soil ecosystem services: Based on a literature survey we made an overview of relations between provisioning and non-provisioning soil ecosystem services and corresponding soil management measures. They inhibit each other (trade-off) or strengthen each other (synergy). Despite some synergies, many trade-offs have been found. Some are only short-term, pointing out the need for temporary incentives but long-term trade-offs may need long term incentives. Next step is to relate these synergies and trade offs to farm type and intrinsic motivation of farmers and to types of incentives.
2. Intervention logic: We developed a framework of incentive types (Jansen et al. 2012) and we classified these incentive types to different levels of governance (Runhaar et al., 2014) and to different levels of scaling (individuals, networks, institutions (Van Twist et al. 2015)). An inventory of existing (legislation, financial incentives, convenants (Lindblom, 1977)) and new steering mechanisms (nudging, framing, gaming (Van Steen et al. 2016)) is carried out to provide insight in the effectivity of different steering mechanisms to improve the balance between provisioning and non-provisioning soil ecosystem services. Furthermore, we will analyse the relevance of marketable and non-marketable ecosystem services and how these are related to intrinsic motivations of farmers.
3. Validation and case studies: This subproject will test the perceived effectivity of incentives by farmers. We will expand a framework of handling options of farmers, implementing farmer types and/or farming systems. Recent student interviews will be combined with interviewing farmers in two cases on specific policy issues as climate proof agriculture. This will lead to a better insight in the field of influence in the agricultural business around soil ecosystem services and in (more) effective incentives to restore the balance between these services.


Hart K, Allen B, Lindner M, Keenleyside C, Burgess P, Eggers J, Buckwell A 2013. Land as an Environmental Resource, Report Prepared for DG Environment, Institute for European Environmental Policy, London.

Jansen, J., Wessels, R. & Lam, T. 2012. How to R.E.S.E.T. farmer mindset? Experiences from the Netherlands. Conference paper.

Runhaar. H.A.C., P.P.J. Driessen, C.J. Uittenbroek, 2014. Towards a Systematic Framework for the Analysis of Environmental Policy Integration. In: Environmental Policy and Governance 24: 233-246.

Steen, M. van der, F. G. Boonstra en Arnouts, R.C.M., J. Scherpenisse en I. de Jong, 2016. De volgende stap. Sturen met maatschappelijke energie in het natuurdomein. Den Haag: NSOB. Wageningen: Alterra Wageningen UR.

Twist, M. van, N. Chin-A-Fat, J. Scherpenisse en M. Van der Steen (2015). In cirkels sturen? Reflecties over de transitie van een lineaire naar een circulaire economie. Den Haag: NSOB.

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