The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) is leading one of seven major new studies which will help us to understand how biodiversity underpins our economy and to assess its economic value.

Biodiversity supports everything in nature that we need to survive, from food to clean water. From plants, animals and insects to fungi and bacteria, biodiversity creates the intricate ecosystems we rely on. Although the UK has more than 70,000 species of animals, plants, fungi and micro-organisms, research has shown that we are also one of the world’s most nature depleted countries.

The new studies, which represent a £6.4 million investment by UK Research and Innovation, will enable us to better manage our natural environment by directing investment to restore and conserve this vital natural resource. They will help to deliver the recommendations made by the UK Government’s Dasgupta Review, which called for changes in how we think, act and measure economic success to protect and enhance our prosperity and the natural world.

The project led by Professor Gordon Blair of UKCEH will receive £794,402 to investigate whether ‘virtual labs’ coupled with decision-support frameworks, can help us understand the complex interactions needed to support informed policy development and organisational decision-making.

The decision-support framework will draw on ideas from environmental accounting, ecosystem services and natural capital, and systems thinking approaches more generally. Their overall aims are to:

  • Determine the best approaches to support good decision-making around biodiversity
  • Test those ideas within a virtual lab forum
  • Design a decision-making framework to enhance accountability and trustworthiness

The funding has been provided by UKRI’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Professor Sir Duncan Wingham, Executive Chair of NERC, said: "The Economics of Biodiversity programme will help us protect our natural environment and earth’s carefully balanced ecosystems. It will build our understanding of how biodiversity is valued, increase investment and improve management of this vital natural resource.

"As our governments work to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss at COP27 and CBD COP15 conferences, this investment shows UKRI’s commitment to environmental science, building our knowledge and supporting sustainable economic growth and public wellbeing."

Professor Gordon Blair commented: "The exciting thing about this project is that we are applying a systems-thinking approach to decision-making around land-use and biodiversity. This will be supported by virtual labs, a technology that can both bring together disparate data sets and, more importantly, people from a variety of disciplinary perspectives to enable truly transdisciplinary decision-making.”

The project will be delivered in collaboration with the University of Lancaster and University of York.

UKCEH staff