Resilience-based governance in rural landscapes: Experiments with agri-environment schemes using a spatially explicit agent-based model

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In this paper we apply an agent-based modelling approach to improve our understanding of how government payments to enhance public values in social-ecological systems can contribute to the resilience of the system. As a system we take a rural area with high quality nature including farmers managing this area. These farmers make the decision either to produce milk for the world market or bring their land under the agri-environment scheme, which is supposed to enhance biodiversity at landscape level. We explore how farmers respond to introducing a flexible compensatory payment related to the degree to which AES parcels contribute to the spatial coherence of the local network of nature areas. We use this characteristic of the location of AES parcels as a proxy for higher species diversity. We also explore how farmers respond to increased volatility in output prices, which we consider as an example of a large scale disturbance with a potentially major implication on the spatial conditions of the network of nature areas. We find that if payments are spatially conditioned, farmers bring fewer parcels under the AES, but with a higher contribution to the spatial conditions for species diversity. We also find that if the payments are spatially restricted, the AES parcels are less sensitive to fluctuations in output prices. Assuming that it takes several years for a parcel with conventional farming to increase biodiversity, we conclude that if the government introduces a spatial condition into the AES payment system, the social-ecological system that we have considered would increase in resilience, because the condition for biodiversity would become less sensitive to large scale disturbances due to increased price fluctuation on the world market.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)934-943
JournalLand Use Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • agricultural policies
  • biodiversity
  • systems
  • netherlands
  • simulation
  • behavior
  • farmers
  • land


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