Purpose & Decision-Making Level 

At the start of an assessment, its purpose must be defined. If the purpose is a purely scientific analysis without any intended practical application, the system boundaries must only be aligned to the specific research question. However, if the assessment is intended to inform policy makers, it can be helpful to structure it along decision making levels, i.e. along the options that are available to specific groups of decision makers.
Agricultural management for any given site is influenced by the decision of multiple actors. These are farmers, but also retailers, consumers, administration and policy makers. They operate at different spatial scales and different sets of options are available to them. If an impact assessment focusses on the options of a specific group, results can be used to identify options with a desirably outcome and options, where the overall impact is negative. This can be used to formulated policy accordingly.


Focussing on specific actor groups also sets the spatial frame with regards to the options that are analysed. The assessment of impacts, however, should not be restricted to this scale and relevant effects that occur on another scale must not be ignored. For example, an impact assessment of  farmers’ options for increasing soil carbon sequestration will analyse effects of different management at the local scale but also assesses impacts on global climate.
Below we present a selection of decision makers that influence agricultural management and an overview of the spatial scales they operate on.


Provisioning Regulation & Maintenance cultural
Food from plants Bio-remidiation Ecosystems enabling active enjoyment
Food from plants Filtration/sequestration/storage/accumulation Ecosystems enabling active enjoyment
Energy from plants Smell reduction Ecosystems enabling research
Food from plants (aquaculture) Noise reduction Ecosystems enabling education
Food from plants (aquaculture) Noise reduction Ecosystems enabling education
Food from plants (aquaculture) Visual screening culturally/historically important ecosystems