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Can we develop tools for securing Lawtonian landscape resilience?

Project Description

Lawton (2010) reviewed England’s biodiversity and ecological networks and concluded that biodiversity sites did not comprise a coherent and resilient ecological network, in the face of a changing climate and threats to biodiversity. We need to make our network of sites bigger, better and more joined up and plan effectively to avoid further degradation. The Government’s 25 year environment plan sets goals for improving the environment, aiming to achieve a growing and resilient network richer in biodiversity. This project answers the question, how do we deliver these goals by means of green infrastructure investments informed by robust science?
This will:

be carried out in the context of the current development agenda and wider landscape management pre- and post-development using real planning data from AECOM’s broad portfolio of development projects;
allow analysis of established urban, peri-urban, rural areas and proposed plans; and
use scenarios to test how designs might be optimised to secure nature-people interactions.

Predicting spatial variation in biodiversity, broader natural capital and the provision of ecosystem services depends, inter alia, on a detailed understanding of relationships between landscape structure and biodiversity, and accurate spatial modelling. Delivering our assessments in a robust and rigorous manner will provide tools enabling a greater understanding of how to achieve “bigger, better and more joined-up” landscapes.

We will define the way in which landscaping interventions can lead to net gains in biodiversity and ecosystem service delivery, whilst securing ecosystem resilience of these landscapes in a changing environment.

This approach will:

go beyond the industry standard and consider landscape scale rather than isolated assessments;
develop a decision-aiding tool for planning focused assessments; and,
facilitate transition from a biodiversity approach to a focus on connectivity and ‘bigger picture’ ecology, providing a measureable and quantifiable assessment– bringing cutting edge science into contemporary professional practice.

We have teamed up with AECOM who will provide experienced staff and case study material from infrastructure projects, ensuring that solutions/tools are practical and useful in current and future decision-making.

The project will run for 3.5 years, and will be based at Cranfield University at its Bedfordshire campus. The PhD is part of the CENTA2 Doctoral Training partnership (

Application Deadline
Projects live: 15th November 2019
Application deadline:10th January 2020
Interview week: Week commencing 3rd February 2020
Universal acceptance date for offers:18th March 2020
Start date: 1st October 2020


Prof. Ron Corstanje (Cranfield University)
Prof. Jim Harris (Cranfield University)
Lewis Deacon (AECOM, )

Entry requirements
Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in a relevant environmental science subject.

CENTA2 studentships are for 3.5 years and are funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). In addition to the full payment of their tuition fees, successful candidates will receive the following financial support.
Annual stipend, set at £15,009 for 2019/20
Research training support grant (RTSG) of £8,000

We welcome applications from UK and EU students, students from outside of the EU are not eligible. Full tuition fees and an annual stipend in line with UK Research Councils are available for UK and EU applicants who qualify for NERC awards. Further guidance about eligibility is available at RCUK Terms & Conditions

How to apply

Please complete the online application form at Cranfield University.

Please state the name of the project you will to apply for
When asked how you intend to fund your postgraduate studies please state that you wish to apply for a NERC CENTA2 studentship.
You will also be required to complete and submit the CENTA2 studentship application form and attach it to the application form.

Further information
For informal enquiries about the research projects please contact the relevant 1st supervisor above or for general queries about the DTP please contact CENTA at or 0121 414 6171

For more information about application please visit the CENTA2 application page.

Funding Notes

see above

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