SoCuLa – Socio-cultural Drivers of Biodiversity Change in Germany

Foto: Ralf Gosch -

This research project investigates the influence of social transformation processes – for example demographic change, digitalization or changes in values and norms – on cultural landscapes and their biodiversity. As a result, possible development paths of cultural landscapes can be identified. These paths are developed jointly with the local population.

Research approach

The project follows a social-ecological research approach. The aim is to understand the influence of socio-cultural drivers on cultural landscapes and their biodiversity. This will be described qualitatively, and in addition, indicators for cultural ecosystem services will be developed on a quantitative level. Thus, it will be possible to record and quantify cultural aspects of landscapes, such as the regional identity or an aesthetically attractive landscape. The insights gained will be incorporated into participatory scenarios to jointly discuss future landscape developments. For this, the DFG-funded Infrastructure Priority Programme “Biodiversity Exploratories” provides the appropriate empirical framework. Since 2006, mostly natural science data have been collected in three German regions in order to gain a better understanding of ecosystem processes and the effects of human interventions. The so-called “Exploratories” Schorfheide-Chorin, Hainich-Dün and Schwäbische Alb represent three landscape types that can be found throughout Europe: Sander and arable land, grassland, extensive forests and limestone-rich mountain ranges. The SoCuLa project's canon of methods includes workshops in the project regions as well as expert interviews and a literature review. These social science data are combined in an interdisciplinary way together with natural scientists in order to develop a joint picture of nature and society. Thus, it will be possible to further develop research on the multifunctionality of ecosystems. 


Global biodiversity loss continues unabated. Unsustainable land use is a direct driver of this development, as The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has shown with the help of a comprehensive meta-analysis. However, the existing global targets for biodiversity conservation are hardly implemented by the member countries, if at all. A prominent example is the failure to meet the UN Aichi Targets adopted at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010. In order to find causes and solutions for the lack of implementation, insights into societal developments is central. The behavior of society must be given greater consideration. Developments such as demographic change, digitalization or changes in values and norms also influence the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services. These changes influence land use at different levels. The project therefore focuses on identifying and analyzing these drivers and looks for approaches on how cultural landscapes can be sustainably shaped in the future. 

Research and project partners

  • University of Bergen, Norway 
  • Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre SBiK-F, Frankfurt am Main, Germany


The project “Socio-cultural Dynamics of German Cultural Landscapes – A Future-oriented Perspective” is funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), Biodiversity Exploratories (DFG Priority Program SPP 1374), Project Number 512359495


2023/02 – 2026/01