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How can we achieve biodiversity net gain? (BONDUENV20ARIES)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, January 07, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description


We live in an era characterised by the global impact of humans on the planet. The biodiversity consequences are well known and it is critical to devise strategies to prevent further biodiversity loss and to maximise the delivery of ecosystem services. ‘Biodiversity offsets’ are a means of delivering compensation for unavoidable biodiversity loss associated with planned development, and are increasingly required through legislation and national or international policies. ‘No net loss’ offsetting delivers a neutral outcome for biodiversity, whereas ‘net gain’ offsetting policies are favoured by many stakeholders.

However, views on biodiversity offsetting range from outright rejection to qualified acceptance amongst both experts and civil society. This presents significant legitimacy issues for developers, threatening their ‘social license to operate’ (SLO).


This research will work with Anglian Water as a business case study. Specifically, the objectives are to:

1) conceptualise net gain based on global policy and practice;
2) identify the expectations of different stakeholders, including civil society, of net gain;
3) evaluate existing approaches to the delivery of net gain; and
4) determine how Anglian Water can deliver net gain in their region with minimum risk to their SLO.

The student will use Anglian Water’s five-year plan as a case study, along with stakeholder engagement (including interviews) and expert elicitation approaches, to develop an understanding of the legitimacy implications of different conceptualisations of net gain. Metrics (e.g. value of native and non-native species) will be used to evaluate the biodiversity outcomes of the different conceptualisations.


Training at UEA (in social science and quantitative data analyses methods) and by the CASE partner (Anglian Water) (e.g. e-learning and job shadowing) will be made available to the student. The candidate will acquire and/or strengthen a number of skills including:

•Expert elicitation
•Interview techniques
•Prioritisation software and functional traits analyses
•Meta analysis, systematic review method.


We seek an enthusiastic, proactive student with a passion for biodiversity conservation and a desire to engage, and work collaboratively, with diverse stakeholders.

More information on the supervisor for this project:
Type of programme: PhD
Start date: October 2020
Mode of study: Full-time or part-time
Studentship length: 3.5 years
Partner: Anglian Water Services Ltd
Eligibility requirements: First degree in Natural or Social Sciences

Funding Notes

This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, and will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the PhD.

Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 18/19 February 2020.

Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship. UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award.

Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area.

For further information, please visit View Website


DE WITT, M., POPE, J., RETIEF, F., BOND, A., MORRISON-SAUNDERS, A. & STEENKAMP, C. (2019), "Biodiversity offsets in EIA: Getting the timing right", Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 75, pages 1-12.

BROWNLIE, S., KING, N. & TREWEEK, J. 2013. Biodiversity tradeoffs and offsets in impact assessment and decision making: can we stop the loss? Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal, 31, 24-33.

BULL, J. W. & BROWNLIE, S. 2017. The transition from No Net Loss to a Net Gain of biodiversity is far from trivial. ORYX, 51(1), 53-59.

BOND, A., POPE, J., RETIEF, F. & MORRISON-SAUNDERS, A. 2018. On legitimacy in impact assessment: An epistemologically-based conceptualisation. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 69, 16-23.

MARON, M., IVES, C.D., KUJALA, H., BULL, J.W., MASEYK, F.J.F., BEKESSY, S., GORDON, A., WATSON, J.E.M., LENTINI, P.E., GIBBONS, P., POSSINGHAM, H.P., HOBBS, R.J., KEITH, D.A., WINTLE, B.A. & EVANS, M.C. 2016. Taming a Wicked Problem: Resolving Controversies in Biodiversity Offsetting. BioScience, 66(6), 489-498.

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