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photo 1-2: T. Reutemann, photo 3: P. Gorris, photo 4: B. Behera

Research Group
Behavioral Economics for the Environment

Research profile

The research group "Behavioral Economics for the Environment" of the Alexander-von-Humboldt (AvH) professorship for Environmental Economics of the University of Osnabrück (UOS) is working on behavioral aspects of environmental policies. It is part of the Institute for Environmental Systems Research.

We are particularly interested in two types of modern policy approaches and the ways to combine them: economic incentives, in particular payments for ecosystem services (PES), and cooperative approaches based on self-regulation. These two approaches have developed independently and are based on apparently contradicting assumptions about what drives human behavior, namely (i) self-interest, requiring material motivations, or (ii) social and environmental preferences providing intrinsic motivations for sustainable action. However, individuals are more likely to have a mix of these motivations and to weigh them differently in contexts with strong or weak social norms. It is thus increasingly clear that neither approach alone will effectively address contemporary environmental challenges.

The general objective of the professorship is to analyze how to design effective and efficient policies to protect natural resources combining economic incentives and self-regulation. For this purpose, we aim at understanding: (i) how people make their decisions when they face an environmental dilemma in a given context, (ii) why and when people sometimes cooperate to protect natural resources, (iii) how policies can impact their intrinsic motivations to cooperate and, (iv) how to reinforce people’s social and environmental preferences.

We also analyse the performance of specific policies such as PES, considering insights from particular theories within behavioral economics, psychology and other related disciplines. In our analyses we use tools from experimental economics and game theory.

Finally, we intend to study environmental policies in different contexts in both developing and industrialized countries. Environmental problems analyzed include topics ranging from climate mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity conservation and water resources management.

IUSF ForscherInnen schreiben an neuem Report des Weltbiodiversitätsrat mit

Prof. Stefanie Engel (Leitautorin) und Dr. Ann-Kathrin Koessler (Fellow) wurden ausgewählt am nächsten Report des Weltbiodiversitätsrat IPBES mitzuwirken.
Der Weltbiodiversitätsrat IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) ist ein wissenschaftliches, zwischenstaatliches Gremium der UN, das politischen Entscheidungsträgern objektive und zuverlässige Informationen über den Zustand und die Entwicklung der biologischen Vielfalt und ihrer Ökosystemleistungen zur Verfügung stellt.
Der kommende Report „VALUES – Konzepte zur Bewertung von Biodiversität“ beschäftigt sich mit der Frage welche Methoden und Werkzeuge sich für die Bestimmung der multiplen Werte von Biodiversität eignen.
Weitere Informationen zur Arbeit des Rates finden Sie hier:


    Pre-Conference Workshop: „The Role of Social Preferences for Conservation Behaviour“ on the 12th of September

    We are now part of REECAP - a European-wide network of researchers using economic experiments for the evaluation of agricultural policies.

    We are co-organizing this years’ REECAP (Research network on Economic Experiments for the Common Agricultural Policy) conference in Vienna, which will take place from September 26-28, 2018. The event will be hosted by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) and is organized in cooperation with the Annual Conference of the Australian Society of Agricultural Economics (ÖGA). A detailed program including keynotes and parallel sessions can be found online.


    Stefanie Engel presented in the lecture series ,Mensch – Umwelt – Netzwerke: Komplexe Systeme, Wahrnehmungsmuster, Interaktionen‘ (Human-Environment Networks: Complex systems, perception patterns, interactions).
    Payments for environmental services (PES) have become a major and much debated approach to promoting sustainable land use worldwide. In an article just released in Nature Sustainability, Sven Wunder (Center for International Forestry Research), Stefanie Engel (IUSF) and others bring together scientists from different previously alleged 'schools of thought' on payments for environmental services (PES) to jointly highlight main PES lessons from an economics and social scienceperspective, and to what degree they are actually implemented in existing PES schemes worldwide.
    Press here to see the press release.
    Press here to see the paper.

    AUROE workshop in Osnabrück on 21-23 February 2018
    more information

    Presentation by Stefanie Engel at Vernetzungsworkshop "Klimawandel und Nachhaltigkeit", Philipps Universität Marburg, 7 November 2017
    more information

    Universitätsrede am 26.01.2017
    "Vom Homo oeconomicus zum Homo sustinens"(more information)

    Interview with Stefanie Engel:
    Stadtblatt Osnabrueck (in German)

    Latest publications
    • Ferré, M., Engel, S., Gsottbauer, E. 2018. Which Agglomeration Payment for a Sustainable Management of Organic Soils in Switzerland? – An Experiment Accounting for Farmers' Cost Heterogeneity. Ecological Economics 150: 24-33.
    • He, P., Veronesi, M., Engel, S. 2017. Consistency of Risk Preference Measures: An Artefactual Field Experiment from Rural China. Journal of Development Studies.[online] DOI:10.1080/00220388.2017.
    • Muller, A., Ferré, M., Engel, S., Gattinger, A., Holzkämper, A., Huber, R., Müller, M., Six, J.  2017. Can soil-less crop production be a sustainable option for soil conservation and future agriculture? Land Use Policy 69: 102-105. Available at:


    We are part of the

    LaER. is the experimental research group of the departments of Business and Economics, and of the Institute of Environmental Systems Research at the Universität Osnabrück