This present article investigates the importance of the role played by ecological direct payments in ensuring ecologically compatible land use, taking anticipated developments in agriculture in the Greifensee region as a point of departure. Calculations carried out using an economic land use optimisation model for the year 2011 show that today’s ecological contributions are both ineffective and inefficient when it comes to the integration of those habitats which are vital for bio-diversity. Effectiveness and efficiency can be improved by paying contributions exclusively for meadowland which is used extensively and is situated in locations with a high integration potential. By applying this site-specific approach, habitats can be integrated much better than they are today without any higher costs being incurred and there is a noticeable rise in the share of ecological compensation areas.The model results reveal quite clearly the wide range of interactions and interdependencies in the agricultural-ecological system. In spite of the fact that a lot of new knowledge about the system has been gained in the course of the Greifensee project, there are still numerous gaps in our understanding of the overall interdependencies involved. Therefore, the existing knowledge deficit must be eliminated quickly in order to facilitate the steering and organisation of the system output attributable to agriculture.
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