Jun.-Prof. Dr. Lisa Biber-Freudenberger elected as co-chair of BION Network

During the regular elections for its board in Bonn, April 17, 2024 ZEF Junior-Professor Lisa Biber-Freudenberger was unanimously elected as the new co-chair of the BION-network.

She has been active in BION since the network was founded. In addition to continuing her previous efforts she aims to drive forward the network's internationalization. With her election, she replaces the long-standing co-chair Professor Wolfgang Wägele, who resigned after years-long involvement in the network, i.e. as Chair.  

Junior-Professor Lisa Biber-Freudenberger will take over the chairmanship together with Professor Dr. Wiltrud Terlau from the International Center for Sustainable Development (IZNE) at Hochschule Rhein Sieg, for the next two years. 

Dr. Nicole Nöske (Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change) and Dr. Andree Hamm (Institute of Organic Agriculture) will also remain members of the BION Board for a further two years.

More information at:

New study: Nearly half of the world is suitable for diversified farming for sustainable intensification

Research team at the Center for Development Research shows how and where different diversification systems can be applied to achieve sustainable intensification globally.

According to a new study led by a junior researcher at the Center for Development Research (ZEF), profitability of diversified farming systems is highly influenced by infrastructure and most areas in the global north are suitable for profitable diversified farming systems. The study, “Nearly half of the world is suitable for diversified farming for sustainable intensification” has just been accepted for publication in the journal of Communications Earth & Environment.

Sustainable intensification was identified as one of the solution pathways for transformative agriculture. However, it is still unclear how agricultural practices would have to change under a system of sustainable intensification and how this would depend on local contextual variables. In some areas sustainable intensification might take the form of extensification and in other intensification. Which makes it highly variable and context specific. “Diversified farming systems are key to reaching sustainable intensification as they can both support intensification and extensification, in different contexts and under different socio-economic conditions,” says Hannah Kamau, a doctoral researcher at the Center for Development Research and the lead author of the study “Nearly half of the world is suitable for diversified farming for sustainable intensification.” The key is profitable systems. There is evidence that agriculture practitioners like farmers, donors, funders, and even policy and decision makers are basing their decisions on profitability. Lack of information on conditions that define a profitable diversified farming systems inadvertently promotes simplified farming practices whose short- and long-term effects harm people and nature. Identifying these conditions can raise awareness and incentivize agriculture practitioners to prioritize diversified farming systems.

She and her team used global spatial layers of socio-economic conditions alongside with observed geo-locations of where diversified farming systems were found profitable to predict other areas with similar conditions. Their approach “using the principles of species distribution modelling commonly used in Ecology has not been used to predict suitable areas of profitable diversified farming systems, much less when using maximum entropy approach” says Hannah Kamau. This approach predicts grid-by-grid suitability based on a set of constraints and identification of areas with similar conditions. Previous suitability cases have primarily focused on animals and plants and in this case, we used locations of profitable diversified farming systems at field conditions.

They found that suitability is high in the global north and in the global south was high in areas particularly near the urban centers. Developed infrastructure, better governance and accountability played a key role in predicting suitable areas. In addition to predicting suitable areas, we also determined which areas could benefit from either extensification, intensification, or both. The researchers found that areas in Western Europe, China, parts of India and Brazil, and eastern Europe could benefit from cropland expansion and other forms of extensification like incorporating natural habitats, mixed plantings and reducing cropping density. Areas in for example in sub-Sahara, parts of Brazil, India, and Tajikistan, Canada and Australia could benefit from intensification with practices like agroforestry, crop rotations, mixed plantings and better management of nutrients and water. Other areas could be suitable for both like most parts in West Africa.

Sponsorship:This study was funded by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung as part of the project At the Science Policy Interface: LANd Use SYNergies and CONflicts within the framework of the 2030 Agenda LANUSYNCON [01UU2002].

Publication :Hannah Kamau, Shahrear Roman, Lisa Biber-Freudenberger: “Nearly half of the world is suitable for diversified farming for sustainable intensification,” in “Communications Earth & Environment.” DOI:

Contact:Hannah Kamau, Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn,

Debating the role of science in UN policy processes


In a conversation with researchers who are actively involved in the UN science-policy-frameworks, we discuss the role of science in UN conventions, questions around opportunities and challenges of collaboration in science-policy contexts, engagement and transparency of UN processes. The audience is invited to join the conversation.
The primary objective of this event is to raise awareness of the UN Framework Conventions and highlight the role of science in UN processes.


Jun.-Prof. Dr. Lisa Biber-Freudenberger,
Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn;
Research Group Leader in the project LANUSYNCON

Prof. Dr. Nikolaus Froitzheim,
Agricultural Faculty, University of Bonn

Dr. Isimemen Osemwegie,
Assistant Programme Coordinator, CABES Senior Researcher, Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, Germany

Prof. Dr. Lisa Schipper,
Geographical Institute of the University of Bonn GUIB

Prof. Dr. Zita Sebesvari,
Deputy Director of the UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) & Professor at the University of Bonn

Sara Velander,
Junior Researcher at the Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, in the project LANUSYNCON


You can register online until November 13 (on-site participation) or November 15 (online participation).

Location: Center for Development Research (ZEF), Genscheralle 3, 53113 Bonn

This event is jointly organized by the project team LANUSYNCON (At the Science Policy Interface: LANd Use SYNergies and CONflicts within the framework of the 2030 Agenda) at the Center for Development Research (ZEF) and the Staff Unit for the Bonn Research Alliance (BORA), University of Bonn.



New publication - Decision analytical methods for assessing the efficacy of agroecology intervention

Dr. Cory Whitney

Unlocking the Potential of Agroecology: Leveraging Decision Analysis for Informed Decision-Making … Making decisions about interventions to agroecological systems is difficult given their inherent complexity and the resulting uncertainty about the impacts of any proposed changes. Action requires stakeholders, policymakers and land managers to choose between alternatives. These actors often seek to support both human nutrition and ecosystems. Approaches for producing reliable impact projections accounting for system complexity and uncertainty exist but decision-makers rarely use them. Such approaches could be widely applied to assess the costs, benefits, and risks of agroecology development. A team of researchers from the University of Bonn, Cory Whitney, Lisa Biber-Freudenberger and Eike Luedeling, have recently reviewed the literature on decision theory as a methodology for supporting decision-making in agroecology. They present an overview of their findings in a new publication. They outline the conceptual relationships between decision-analysis methods and agroecology and examine how decision-analysis methods can be applied to support decision-making for agroecological transitions.

Decision sciences can provide practical decision support in the face of system complexity, uncertainty, risks, and unclear benefits of agroecology interventions. The approaches can allow those who are formulating interventions to systematically compare the outcomes, and explicitly incorporate uncertainty associated with decision options. This approach can aid decision-makers in evaluating the potential effects of various management or policy actions related to agroecology. It provides transparent and valuable information about the types of trade-offs and the level of risk associated with any resulting decisions. Results from the modeling procedures can help support decisions according to intended outcomes, with risks and uncertainty explicitly included, and help decision-makers identify where agroecology interventions make sense for achieving desired results.

Decision analysis methods can play a critical role in determining the suitability of agroecology interventions, and in supporting and scaling them when appropriate. Relevant international and national government processes and funding mechanisms, as well as the private sector, should make use of these methods to determine if and when agroecology interventions are appropriate, and for supporting and scaling them when they are. The integration of decision analysis methods in agroecology can provide transparent and useful information about the types of trade-offs and the level of risk associated with any resulting decisions, facilitating the achievement of desired outcomes while accounting for risks and uncertainty.

Whitney, Biber-Freudenberger, Luedeling, Decision analytical methods for assessing the efficacy of agroecology interventions, CABI Agriculture and Bioscience,

Whitney, Decision Analysis and Agroecology, searchRxiv,

Multiple disciplinary research in LANUSYNCON

LANUSYNCON hosted its first writing retreat for the project's team members and affiliated Master students . In a series of reflective activities, the participants worked together to identify potential areas of collaboration with stakeholders and within the team. The successional plenary presentations of their work proved highly stimulating and inspired fruitful discussions, culminating in the formulation of possible research projects. 

Sustainability at the University of Bonn

The Green Office at the University of Bonn is a student-led office dedicated to promoting the topic of sustainability and facilitating exchange amongst students and staff to structurally anchor these issues at the University.The 2022 reader introduces measures and projects concerning sustainable development at the Univeristy of Bonn in 2022. LANUSYNCON is among the selected research projects being introduced in this issue. A digital copy of the reader is now available online: Sustainability Reader


The Future Lies in Africa

Jun.-Prof. Dr.Lisa Biber-Freudenberger, Vincent Moseti, Dr. Juliet Wanjiku Kamau, Dr. Gabin Kouévi Ananou, Prof.Dr. Detlef Müller-Mahn joined the lineup of the Berlin Science Week 2022. In the session "The Future Lies in Africa", they discussed  the accesibilities, possibilities and probabilities of African futures, highlighting findings from joint research projects between the University of Bonn, University of Cologne, and African partners. A video of the session is now available on Youtube

Crop Diversity Day 2022

Jun.- Prof. Dr. Lisa Biber-Freudenberger attended Crop Trust's Crop Diversity Day event on the topic of "Food Security and Crop Diversity: Actionable Solutions for a Healthy World" in Bonn, Germany on 27th September, 2022 as a key speaker.The Crop Trust highlighted the role of seeds in tackling food insecurity on a global scale. You can now watch the highlights from the event on the Crop Trust's Youtube channel.  

30 Years Later and We are Still in Climate Limbo

Doctoral researcher Sara Velander shared some reflections from COP27 in Egypt with Tripe Pundit. The article, "Reflections from a Millennial Attending COP27: 30 Years Later and We are Still in Climate Limbo", is now available online: 

"As with every global climate conference across the past three decades, expectations were high at COP27 in Egypt for countries to work with renewed fervor in the collective fight against climate change. The world was watching to see if we would finally make significant progress in two critical areas: phasing out fossil fuels from the global economy to mitigate harmful carbon dioxide emissions, as well as financing adaptation and recovery from loss and damage in the regions most vulnerable to climate change impacts. As a millennial who has now attended five U.N. climate conferences (COPs) across the past seven years, I witness the same story every time:
  • Fossil fuel lobbyists proposing false solutions, and delegates from developed countries touting themselves as leaders of addressing the climate crisis when they are the biggest current and historical polluters. 
  • A blatant disregard of grassroots voices from the Global South bearing the brunt of climate impacts which echo outside the negotiation halls during their daily actions. 
  • Negotiators working arduously day and night rewriting policy documents that would simultaneously satisfy all country, political and economic agendas while effectively and equitably addressing climate change." 

You can find the full article here.

Berlin Science Week - 1-10 November, 2022

"The Future Lies in Africa"

November 4th, 2022  11.30 AM - 01.00 PM CEST

Session with MFM Future At Work and the  University of Bonn I Jun.-Prof. Dr.Lisa Biber-Freudenberger, Vincent Moseti, Dr. Juliet Wanjiku Kamau, Dr. Gabin Kouévi Ananou, Prof.Dr. Detlef Müller-Mahn.

The session is part of the Berlin Science Week and will present highlights from joint research projects in colloboration between the University of Bonn and African partners, addressing the following questions: How do African futures become accesible in collaborative scientific research?; What characterizes the possibilities and probabilities of African futures? What can we learn from African experiences in regard to future-making practices? 

The event will take place in-person. Admission is free and registration is required. You can reserve a one or two-day ticket here.

Call for Applications: Student/Scientific Assistant

LANUSYNCON and Future Rural Africa.  With a focus on the East and Southern African regions, Lanusyncon aims to integrate different disciplines, perspectives and actors to better understand the nexus between economic development and environment.  In the Collaborative Research Center Future Rural Africa, the teams seeks to understand the role of rural roads investment on livelihoods and environment. For more information, visit Future Roads

Interested candidates should submit their cover letter and CV as one PDF document to vmosetin(at) until the 15th of September 2022. For any queries, please contact Mr. Vincent Moseti via vinmoseti(at)

You can find more information here: Student/Scientific Assistant 


UNFCCC Regional Climate week - Side Event

Side Event by ZEF and CSIR: Transformative climate adaptation, land use, and human health in Africa, a NEXUS approach with ZEF Junior Researcher Mahmoud Nady Abdelsabour Mohamed

Monday, August 29 / 12:30 GMT +1

The event will be in Hybrid form. Registration link here:

Abstract: Improper land use is one of the key contributors to climate change. On the other hand, a total shift in land use is a consequence of transformative adaptation measures for climate change. Human health, another tenet of this link, is instantly harmed. Understanding this node is a key factor in adopting long-term adaptation and resilience strategies for better human health and well-being.
In Africa, climate adaptation plans and land planning are more random and misdirected in vulnerable communities, although they are mostly done to seek immediate, short-term benefits. This is accompanied
by concurrent effects that have a variety of negative or positive implications for human health. Direct and indirect effects on human health are likely under various climate and land-use scenarios. Therefore, it is
necessary to evaluate synergies and trade-offs between various climate measures in terms of land use from one perspective and the effect on human health from another perspective.
At this event, a NEXUS approach to understanding the relationship between transformative climate adaptation, land use, and human health in Africa will be discussed.

You can find more information here: Africa Climate Week 2022


Are certified products making agriculture more sustainable and lift farmers out of poverty?

Sustainability certificates such as, Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance or the Forest Stewardship Council have become popular among consumers who want to make a contribution to a fairer and more sustainable world. Certification schemes therefore remain a popular private governance approach to promote sustainable production of food and other products.

In short, certification schemes imply that famers can get a premium price for their product when they, in return, follow specific guidelines aiming to improve the sustainability of the production process. It has been argued by multiple organizations that this market-based approach can contribute to biodiversity conservation, be beneficial to whole communities and lift poor farmers out of poverty. But can certification really have this impact and thereby live up to its promises and consumers’ expectations?

A recent study published by scientists from the University of Münster and the University of Bonn, Germany, in the scientific journal Ecological Economics ( shows that this is not  always the case.

The research team analyzed more than 170 published studies on the effects of certification schemes implemented around the world. The researchers explored how the scientific literature evaluates the effectiveness of certification in bio-based global value chains. To this end they grouped them as studies coming to favorable, mixed, or skeptical conclusions about certification. They also analyzed the influence of factors such as the type of certificate, the analyzed sustainability dimension, the study location as well as the data collection method.

“Overall we found a very mixed picture similarly distributed across economic, social, and environmental areas of sustainability, global regions as well as across different types of certificates” says Thomas Dietz, Professor of Politics and Law with a focus on Sustainable Development at the University of Münster and lead author of the study. “But we could also see that more skeptical valuations of certification have increased over time”. The authors state that the overall results point towards a limited success of certification in governing bio-based primary production, dominated by skeptical statements in the literature analyzed when it came to actual sustainability benefits.

“Interestingly, we found that certification schemes were able to improve certain aspects such as income of farmers, but not to lift farmers out of poverty completely. We think  that this might relate, for example, to  the limited possibilities of many farmers to access certification schemes because of high investment costs” says Lisa Biber-Freudenberger, Junior-Professor for Sustainable Development at the Center for Development Research at the University of Bonn and co-author of the study.

The authors conclude that certification has a positive effect, which, however, does not unfold its actual potential because of other, counteracting effects. This was particularly evident in the economic and the social sustainability dimensions. The authors do not argue against certification as an option to improve sustainability of the primary sector but conclude that there is a need for governance measures that consider the dynamics of and between complex social, economic and ecological systems. 


This study was published in Ecological Economics Volume 201, November 2022, 107546, see For more information, contact Thomas Dietz () and Lisa Biber-Freudenberger ().

Call for Applications: Junior Researcher (65%, TVL 13)

The Center for Development Research (ZEF) is looking for a junior researcher. ZEF’s research departments on Economic and Technological Change, Political and Cultural Change, and Ecology and Natural Resources Management conduct inter and transdisciplinary research in, for, and with emerging economies on global issues with its collaborating research partners around the world. 

In the project “The consequences of biodiversity loss and land use change on infectious disease emergence”, we aim to identify common patterns and drivers of epidemic emergence and provide a risk assessment of current and future epidemic outbreaks of zoonotic infectious diseases in Uganda. Based on different probabilistic modelling approaches incorporating data on infection rates from this project, as well as GIS and remote sensing data, socio-economic panel data and host species distribution records, we will define risks for future outbreak probabilities under different land use and policy scenarios.

Interested candidates can send their complete application documents (cover letter, CV, and certificates) in one PDFfile (no more than 2 MB) by August 1st to Ms Melissa Ngombe (

You can find more information on the position here: Junior Researcher (65%, TVL 13)

The Role of Land in Sustainable Development: Observing Science Policy at the UN Land Conference

Doctoral researcher Sara Velander shared her insights from her trip tot he 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the UNCCD in her blog post "The Role of Land in Sustainable Development". Read more here:

The Importance of Knowledge Platforms for Sustainable Cities

Doctoral researcher Niklas Wagner shared his experience and insights from his trip to the ICLEI World Conference, as well as the convening IPCC Summary for Policy Makers and looks at why city networks like ICLEI are important for sustainable cities. Read more here:

ECPR General Conference 2022 - The Role of Knowledge in Governance

Doctoral researchers Niklas Wagner and Sara Velander's panel and paper "Bridging Knowledge and Governance through Institutionalized Science-Policy Interfaces" have been accepted for the European Consortium for Political Research's upcoming General Conference. The conference will take place 22-26 August, 2022 at the University of Innsbruck. More information on their panel can be found here: panel details.


Looming grain shortages - what role does our meat consumption play?

In 2020, 20% of global grain were fed to livestock, 60% in the EU alone. What role does meat consumption and the choice in grains cultivated have on food security and grain shortages? Junior-Professor Dr. Lisa Biber-Freudenberger discusses this topic in an episode with Bayern 2's "IQ-Wissenschaft und Forschung". Listen to the episode here: 



Call for applications : PhD student position (TVL E13, 100%)

The Bonn Sustainable AI Lab is looking for doctoral students to research environmental impacts of artifical intelligence (AI) applications.The position is limited to a fixed contract of four years. The Bonn Sustainable AI Lab is funded by Prof. Dr. Aimee van Wynsberghe’s Alexander von Humboldt Professorship for the Applied Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. The research done in the lab is focused on addressing the often hidden environmental and related social and economic costs of designing, developing, and using AI across society. The research would be co-supervised by Prof. Dr. Aimee van Wynsberghe and Jun-Prof. Dr. Lisa Biber-Freudenberger from the Agricultural Faculty and the Center for Development Research.

Please send your complete application documents  (in one PDF file) by March 31st to with the application code 14/22/3.202. For further information please contact Charlotte Bander, .

You can find more information on the position here:

What are the consequences of the Ukraine war on food security?⁠

Junior-Professor Lisa Biber-Freudenberger gave her assessment on its impacts on food security and agriculture, highlighting its potential to exacerbate hunger and poverty in the global South, particularly in countries that import a lot of food, and increasing agricultural intensity. ⁠

See the Instagram post by KONSNS here:


Why the extinction of species is as dangerous for humanity as the climate crisis

Climate change poses an existential threat to humanity. However, experts believe that the extinction of species poses a similar risk and deserves more of our attention. Find out how the two issues are linked in the following article: "Warum das Artensterben für die Menschheit so gefährlich ist wie die Klimakrise"

ZEF Junior-Professor Lisa Biber-Freudenberger co-lead author in next IPBES Nexus Assessment

Junior-Professor Dr Lisa Biber-Freudenberger from the Center for Development Research (ZEF) has been selected as Lead Author for the Nexus Assessment of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). This thematic assessment will provide policy-relevant knowledge to decision-makers about the interlinkages among biodiversity, water, food and health and will be prepared by an international and interdisciplinary team of experts over the next 3.5 years, starting  in May 2022. “I feel very honored to be selected as one of the authors preparing this important assessment, which will serve as an important basis for future coherent decision making.” says Lisa Biber-Freudenberger. She was nominated by the German Government as well as ZEF to be part of the author team and finally selected by IPBES following a competitive selection process.

Find out more here

Connecting Gender and Land-use Science: Why Not?

A group of female researchers who are part of the LANUSYNCON project have studied the relation between gender and land-use science*. Both papers, which were recently approved for a special issue entitled “Women in Land Science” in the Journal of Land-Use Science, stress the critical needs of female researchers in the field of land-use science.

As a result of a meta-analysis based on 316,390 peer-reviewed journal articles published between 2000-2021, the authors found that only 27% of all authors represented women. Besides, the ethnicity representation of the authors was biased towards White researchers (62%) followed by Asian (30%), Hispanic (6%), and Black (2%) researchers. “Less than 1% of all authors represented black women indicating an intersectionality effect of female black authors being part of two marginalized scientific communities” says Hannah Kamau, lead author of one of the studies.

The group decided not only to look at land use science in general but also to understand why men are more successful in publishing and pursuing a scientific career, taking the doctoral program at ZEF as a case study. In an online survey, current and former members of the doctoral program were invited to answer questions about their academic performance during their doctorate, whether or not they had kids, and if they or their partner was in charge of family obligations. They found that particularly female early-career researchers from the Global South faced challenges in balancing academic career and family life. Significantly more women than men in the doctoral program were responsible for family obligations, with mothers experiencing a prolonged duration of completing their doctorates and a lower publication rate.

“Considering these results, we call for supportive actions from academic leaders and funding institutions to empower women, to reduce intersectional inequalities and to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals Gender Equality (SDG5) and Partnership for the Goals (SDG17) through gender-sensitive and inclusive international collaboration.” says Sara Velander, lead author of the ZEF case study. Furthermore, the constraints that early-career scientists, particularly mothers, face during their research need to be addressed for institutes to strengthen international gender equality in the field of land science.

The results were also presented and discussed during a workshop on gender-sensitive research at ZEF, organized by the ZEF Gender Group in May of this year. The diffusion of the studies was timely and coincided with the analysis of several senior researchers on the need to address gender inequalities in a more systematic manner along the research cycle. This includes the acknowledgment of the differentiated challenges that female and male researchers face at home, in academic spaces and in the field. Moreover, the contribution of the two studies were highlighted because they constitute a good practice on how to build evidence of the, otherwise, hidden structural disadvantages against female researchers.

* Kamau Hannah, Tran Uyen, Biber-Freudenberger Lisa (in press) “A long way to go: Gender and diversity in Land use science”, Journal of Land Use Science, and Velander Sara, Martinelli Fernanda Silva, Sari Dewi Idam, Ali Fatima, Biber-Freudenberger Lisa (in press) “A dichotomy of domestic and academic pathways: Challenges of motherhood in an international doctoral program on land science” Journal of Land Use Science.

Following the science at COP26: Insights and Observations on the Integration of Scientific Findings in International Climate Policy

Doctoral reseachers Sara Velander and Niklas Wagner wrote a blog post in which they shared their thoughts and observations from COP 26 in Glasgow, Uk. Read it here:

The consequences of biodiversity loss and land use change on infectious disease emergence

LANUSYNCON’s research group leader is set to launch a new project. A new research project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) will take a look at the role of biodiversity loss and land use change for the emergence of zoonotic infectious diseases in Uganda. The activities will start in spring 2022 and will be conducted by Junior-Professor Dr. Lisa Biber-Freudenberger in collaboration with an international and interdisciplinary consortium from the Charité in Berlin and Makerere University in Uganda. While studies have found that transmission of zoonotic diseases is influenced by biodiversity loss and land use change, there is little knowledge about the initial dynamics of disease emergence. The researchers will study these dynamics by detecting, analyzing and modeling arbovirus infections (those viruses transmitted for example by mosquitoes e.g. Rift Valley fever virus, West Nile virus, Dengue virus, Chikungunya virus, Zika virus or Yellow fever virus), considering land use change, climate change, population density, agricultural activities, as well as biodiversity loss. The team will investigate how and under which conditions viruses were able to infect new hosts including humans or farm animals for the first time (so-called spillover infections) to understand their genetic adjustment. This information will provide the basis to model hot spots of diseases emergence under different climatic and land use change scenarios, and to develop policy recommendations for early detection, effective prevention and risk reduction of zoonotic infectious diseases.

Future Rural Africa – The German Research Foundation is funding a second phase for the Collaborative Research Centre

A partner of LANUSYNCON is moving into the next stage. The Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) Future Rural Africa ( is being funded for four more years in its second phase from 2022 till 2026. The CRC investigates the socio-ecological transformation along development corridors in Kenya, Tanzania and Namibia taking an inter- and transdisciplinary perspective. Together with researchers from the University of Bonn and Cologne, as well as other external partners, ZEF has been and will be playing a prominent role in the CRC. Professors Christian Borgemeister and Jan Börner were already co-leading research projects in the first phase as so-called principal investigators (PI). In the second phase, Jun-Prof. Lisa Biber-Freudenberger will become a third PI from ZEF. In their research, the three PIs are going to look at different aspects of socio-ecological transformation and future rural development, ranging from infectious diseases to ecotourism and road development. In the first phase, the CRC looked at conservation and intensification as important processes determining future rural development. In the second phase, “infrastructuring” will be considered as a third process that is interacting with the other two. “The development of roads is shaping the development and future of many rural areas across Africa in a significant way. I am looking forward to the opportunity to better understand how road development affects biodiversity and livelihoods and to play a role in this second phase of the CRC.” says Lisa Biber-Freudenberger.

Science Policy Interfaces (SPIs) in the Sustainable Development Context: How effective are SPIs in addressing complex problems?

Sara Velander (team member of LANUSYNCON) and Niklas Wagner (team member of ONE HEALTH) present a poster about “Science Policy Interfaces (SPIs) in the Sustainable Development Context:​ How effective are SPIs in addressing complex problems?​” at IPBES8 Stakeholder Days

To face today’s cumulative climate-, health-, and biodiversity- crises, the global community decided in 2015 to establish the Sustainable Development Goals (IPBES, 2019). However, the multidimensional characteristics of the SDGs could lead to conflicts leading to competing demands among civil society, scientists, governments, and industries concerning the prioritization of specific goals (Mainali et al., 2018). A potential avenue to foster concerted action and bridge knowledge divides on complex problems that generate these tradeoffs and synergies are science-policy interfaces (SPIs). An SPI is the exchange of evidence between scientists, policymakers, knowledge holders and users, who can use this information to influence the outcomes of policy decisions on the environment (UNEP, 2017). IPBES is a prime example of a global, institutionalized organization developing recurring interface activities on biodiversity. Past research identified complexity and power as factors on the effectiveness of science-policy interactions in advising on an integrated response to sustainable development (Gupta, 2014; Koetz, 2011). This study is based on the prevailing knowledge gaps in the literature on ways how SPIs address complexity and will shed light into power relations within SPIs (Ojanen et al., 2021). This planned study will inform the growing scholarly discourse on the effectiveness of SPIs, such as IPBES, in generating tangible, multiscale outcomes on sustainable development. To see the video presentation accompanying the poster, click here:

Podcast - EKLIPSE about environmental regulation, business and biodiversity featuring Lisa Biber-Freudenberger

Lisa Biber-Freudenberger (Center for Development Research - ZEF) and Janina Grabs (ETH Zurich's Environmental Policy Lab) talked on the fact that our food production systems depend on biodiversity and ecosystem services. This fact is more and more recognised by the whole society. However, we still do not manage to integrate the resources that nature freely provides to us in the value of products we daily consume. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), such as farmers and other food producers, are currently struggling with market prices for their products and at the same time producing more sustainably. To listen and learn more about how environmental regulators can support SMEs to enhance environmental sustainability, listen to the podcast episode on Environmental regulation, business and biodiversity by EKLIPSE.

The increasing trend of considering sustainability in international investment treaties

Another recent meta-study conducted by team members of the projects Trans-Sustain and Lanusyncon, which is currently being prepared for publication finds there is an increasing trend of considering sustainability in bilateral investment treaties (BITs) between 1959 and 2020. The team, namely Marius Dotzauer, Lisa Biber-Freudenberger, and Thomas Dietz analyzed 2,006 bilateral investments treaties by using automated content analysis method. The text analysis showed an increased usage of sustainability references in investment policymaking. Particularly, the usage of the term ‘sustainability’ started around the mid-1990s. However, the numbers of bilateral investments treaties were significantly declining from 1990s to 2020. 

Which factors drive the diffusion of sustainability references in international investment agreements?
Based on the outcome of estimated multiple linear regression models, GDP differences and democracy play significant role in driving the diffusion references in the agreements. GDP differences had a positive effect on sustainability trends, the outcome shows that suggesting the recent wave of sustainability references is moderately, but not exclusively, driven by more powerful states. Besides, democracy reveals mixed evidence. In the total sample, it discovered a relatively large and positive effect on the frequency of sustainability references in international investment agreements when the treaty involves a democracy as a party. 

*This study was presented at the International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Convention 2021 by Marius Dotzauer - Trans-Sustain
For more info, please contact: 
Marius Dotzauer: and Lisa Biber-Freudenberger:

Is private governance effectiveness mythical? A meta-study about the on-site effects of major sustainability certifications in bio-based primary production

April 7th, 2021. Professor Dr. Thomas Dietz, political scientist and member of the LANUSYNCON academic advisory board participated in the International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Convention 2021 and gave a presentation titled “Is private governance effectiveness a myth? A meta‐study about the on‐site effects of major sustainability certifications in bio‐based primary production”.

A recent study conducted by team members of the projects Trans-Sustain and Lanusyncon is currently being prepared for publication. The authors, including LANUSYNCON team leader Lisa Biber-Freudenberger, looked at more than 170 scientific articles from all over the world to find out if scientific studies are more likely to find positive or negative impacts from sustainability certification. 

Sustainability Certifications (SCs) define rules for standard-compliant markets and control access to these markets through certification. Especially in bio-based commodity chains of three economic sub-sectors, including tropical farm-agriculture, forestry, and fisheries/aquaculture, SCs feature quite prominently . As SCs continue to expand their geographic and market coverage, their capacity to promote transitions towards sustainable production practices depends on what they can achieve on the ground. Overall, the authors found that SCs seem to lack the capability to initiate a deep-going sustainability transition. This was independent of the sustainability dimension including social, economic and environmental sustainability.

“Interestingly, what we see, is that studies are more likely to find positive impacts of SCs if they look at so-called intermediate variables and not at endpoint variables”, says Lisa Biber-Freudenberger. Intermediate variables look at measures to achieve a final outcome, e.g. using less pesticides or paying premium prices to farmers. Endpoint variables are final sustainability outcomes such as biodiversity or reduced poverty. Conclusively, this means that measures undertaken under certification schemes are not likely to have the initiated impact. 

For more info, contact: Thomas Dietz ( and Lisa Biber-Feudenberger (

Synergies and conflicts between SDGs: The chances and risks of digitalisation, AI, and big data for sustainable land use

February 24th, 2021. Jun-Prof. Dr. Lisa Biber-Freudenberger presented at Digitainable Forum: Mindful use of Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence (D&AI) for the SDGs on the topic of Synergies and Conflicts between SDGs: The Chances and Risks of Digitalization, AI, and Big Data for Sustainable Land Use.

Today digital technologies and data are available on an unprecedented scale. This provides chances as well as risks for sustainable development, in particular in terms of synergies and conflicts between SDGs in the context of land use. Remote sensing, citizen science, and social media are just some examples of emerging data sources, which provide valuable information to predict and resolve emerging challenges. 

Lisa Biber-Freudenberger presented on a conceptual journey looking at how new digital technologies can support decision-makers in designing coherent land-use policies, help farmers in making smart land-use decisions, reducing the ecological footprints of markets, and supporting scientist in generalising and synthesizing relevant inter- and transdisciplinary knowledge.

“I take a look at the past, and the impact of technologies on sustainable development and use examples from ongoing and envisioned research projects to show how and under which conditions the same technologies could have a positive impact on reaching the SDG”, said Lisa Biber-Freudenberger.

Furthermore, she stated that digitalization is not necessarily supporting sustainable land use but has the potential to contribute. Digitalization should be a means to an end and not an end in itself.

LANUSYNCON for Coherent Land-Use Policies

The Kickoff Event of LANUSYNCON: At the Science Policy Interfaces: LANd Use SYNergies and CONflicts within the framework of the 2030 Agenda took place virtually on 26 and 27 November 2020. With 52 participants attending the public event (Day 1) and 26 participants different thematic workshop (Day2), the event was very successful in reaching out to the interested public and highlighting the goals of the newly established research group at the Center for Development Research funded by the funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research under the Social-ecological Research funding priority. 

Junior-Professor Lisa Biber-Freudenberger, leader of LANUSYNCON, pointed out that “We need coherent land use policies, if we want to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,”  during the Public Kickoff Event.

Complex interactions between the seventeen SDGs are leading to land use synergies and conflicts,  which are amplified if not considered by policy-makers. Science-policy-interfaces (SPIs) have the potential to play an important role in conveying these complex interactions and assessing the impacts of decisions on different SDGs but require tools and institutionalized structures that are capable of producing this kind of knowledge.

The project LANUSYNCON will examine if SPIs take complex SDG trade-offs into account, how these complexities are considered in decision making by policy makers and how these decisions impact land use conflicts and synergies on the ground. The impact of decision making on land use conflicts and synergies will be assessed in case studies in Kenya and Tanzania, which will involve different sources of knowledge including existing data as well as expert knowledge.

In the process, we work together with experts from various scientific backgrounds in a transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary research framework, including our local and international partners: the Biovision Africa Trust,  the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group,  the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) and  the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). 

Public Lecture on "Changes in biodiversity from 3000 BC up to the year 2050: From global to local, and from crisis to challenge"

Ben ten Brink presented on the changes in biodiversity from 3000 BC up to the year 2050, from global to local, and from crisis to challenge. He highlighted 7 ways to avoid biodiversity loss: increase food production, increase wood production, reduce food waste, mitigate climatechange to +2degree C, stop logging C-rich forest, protect 20% each ecosystem type and consume less meat. He expressed corncern that biodiversity loss will continue, resulting in half of it being lost by 2050. Therefore, it is essential to change our lifestyle to become more sustainable. Indeed, the policy makers have to develop supportive policy to protect biodiversity. 87 participants attended this public lecture which was organised by the Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn


Related literature: 
Rethinking Global Biodiversity Strategies: Exploring structural changes in production and consumption to reduce biodiversity loss
Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Lisa Biber-Freudenberger on synergies and conflicts in the implementation of sustainability goals

We interviewed you six years ago. At that time you regretted that, with regard to the protection of biodiversity, the underlying mechanisms such as consumption and global markets received too little attention in the political debate in the countries of the global north. Has anything changed since then?

I think change is happening but slowly. Unfortunately, these processes are very slow and I believe we still tend to turn a blind eye to many things. But I think that we will only be able to reverse climate change, loss of biodiversity, land degradation and consequent disasters and hunger if we admit that we all have to change our behavior and consumption. In order to achieve this, however, it takes a lot of fundamental changes in the way we live and what we value. I am not sure whether we will be able to get there in time. See more


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