BonaRes Assessment Framework

The BonaRes Assessment Framework has been developed to study impacts of soil management practices on societal targets. It is designed for agricultural systems in industrialised countries where both yield gap and contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) are low.


The BonaRes Assessment Framework is based on the DPSIR framework and the six steps of impact assessment. It links driving forces and management decisions to soil reactions, changes in soil functions and their impacts on societal targets. Impacts within the categories of resource use efficiency and ecosystem services are analysed. These two assessment perspectives are considered complementary and strongly correspond with requirements of the German bioeconomy strategies. Likewise, they are related to a number of targets under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.


Application of the BonaRes Assessment Frameworks helps to structure research, define impact areas and indicators and to identify research gaps.

The BonaRes assessment framework (Helming et al., 2018) is an analytical structure to guide research of impacts of soil management and soil function changes on societal targets. It links the DPSIR framework (Gabrielsen & Bosch, 2003) with the six steps of impact assessment. The framework has been developed to study impacts of soil management practices in industrialised agricultural systems characterised by low yield gaps and representing a low share of their countries GDP (gross domestic product), as is the case in most industrialized countries. Societal goals for soil management in these systems are often characterised by an ecosystem services perspective, i.e., increasing biomass production while maintaining the contribution of soil functions to the other ecosystem services, and by a perspective of resource use efficiency, i.e., an optimal return from invested resources. It is important to note that for other agricultural systems (e.g., small holder farming in developing countries) additional and/or different assessment perspectives are appropriate, e.g., motivated by societal targets of nutrition, poverty alleviation or rural development.

The BonaRes Framework (Figure 3) allows two modes of interaction between soil management pressures and impacts: soil-born via changes in soil processes and soil functions (solid arrow) and management induced irrespective of changes in the soil system (thin arrows)

Figure 3: Analytical Framework for impact assessment of soil management and soil functions in BonaRes. Numbers refer to the five steps of the DPSIR framework: Drivers (1), Pressures (2), States (3), Impacts (4), and Responses (5).

The linkage between impacts of soil management and societal targets has only recently gained attention in scientific and policy debates. For achieving a sustainable bioeconomy, assessing impacts of different soil management options is a necessity. However, to the best of our knowledge, no systematic approach to an impact assessment of soil management and soil functions on societal targets has yet been developed.

The BonaRes Assessment Framework links driving forces and management decisions to soil reactions, soil functions changes and their impacts to societal targets. Because  the multitude of such targets makes it impossible to assess all potential impacts, it is necessary to limit assessments to specific assessment perspectives. In the BonaRes Assessment Framework, we analyse impacts within the categories resource use efficiency and ecosystem services. These two perspectives are considered complementary, and they strongly correspond with requirements of the German bioeconomy strategies. Furthermore, they are related to a number of targets under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Ecosystem service perspective: The concept of ecosystem services aims to demonstrate the value of nature to human societies and specifically refers to the ‘final’ outputs of ecological systems, i.e., the goods and services directly consumed or used by people. The importance of managing soil functions to support ecosystem services is widely acknowledged. However, the operationalisation of linkages between soil management, soil functions, and ecosystem services remains a challenge, e.g., where studies use un-linked single indicators.

Resource use efficiency perspective: Resource use efficiency can generally be defined as the ratio of benefits (generated by a product or process) divided by the amount of (scarce) resources used for that purpose (di Maio et al., 2017). Within the context of research for sustainable bioeconomies, it is necessary to determine how soil functions affect resource use efficiencies and additionally, to what degree soil management can increase efficiencies independent from soil functions.

Currently, only few assessments documented in the literature explicitly address the role of soils, although assessment results often implicitly reflect changes in soil functions due to the fundamental role of soils for crop growth. In contrast, the focus of the BonaRes Assessment Framework is explicitly on soils. Its application will help to systemically assess and compare opportunities and threats of (current and novel) soil management practices at different spatial and temporal scales. Insights gained in this way will help to strengthen the science-policy interface. They can be applied in stakeholder decision-making processes and used to inform the design of governance instruments aimed at sustainable soil management within a bioeconomy.

The BonaRes Assessment Framework forms the basis of the BonaRes Impact Assessment Platform. In particular, it is used to guide the development of a toolbox based on state-of-the-art research that provides indicators, methods and standards for impact assessment of soil management.

Systemising and test case application will reveal comprehensiveness and complementarity of the developed tools and identify further research needs of impact assessment.

Di Maio F, Rema PC, Baldé K, Polder M. 2017. Measuring resource efficiency and circular economy: A market value approach. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 122. 163–171. DOI:10.1016/j.resconrec.2017.02.009

Gabrielsen P, Bosch P. 2003. Environmental Indicators: Typology and Use in Reporting European Environment Agency: Copenhagen, Denmark.

Helming K, Daedlow K, Paul C, Techen A, Bartke S, Bartkowski B, Kaiser DB, Wollschläger U, Vogel H-J. 2018. Managing soil functions for a sustainable bioeconomy – assessment framework and state of the art. Land Degradation and Development 29:3112–3126. DOI:10.1002/ldr.3066