Biodiversity loss is among the top global risks to society and is currently declining faster than at any time in human history. This continued loss undermines human health and well-being, societal resilience and progress towards global targets such as the Sustainable Development Goals and Aichi biodiversity targets.
Biodiversity is a critical component within the natural assets that support ecosystem services, through which humans receive the goods and benefits that can be essential for their existence. It is through this conceptual ecosystem service framework that both monetary and non-use values can be quantified and ascribed, and we can start to understand the economic importance of biodiversity, and therefore the impacts of its loss.
Despite this importance biodiversity and ecosystems are consistently undervalued in both conventional economic analyses and in decision making. In order that value-based decisions become more informed and robust, it is imperative that explicit values of biodiversity are determined.
Moreover, we need to better understand the types of biodiversity that are required to maintain, restore and enhance ecological function in multi-functional systems in order to support economic activity, and how biodiversity can or might change and respond to different environmental conditions and scenarios.
Advancing our knowledge in these areas will provide a critical step toward an improved, more holistic valuation of biodiversity, and in usefully informing decision making by developing and applying suitable tools and indicators, stimulating market development, and supporting practical evidence-based action.
In delivering evidence in this proactive way, there is an opportunity to shape political and economic thinking into the future (both nationally and internationally), rather than being reactionary to emerging policies and market forces.
Commissioned by the HM Treasury, The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review (GOV.UK) shows humanity’s demands on nature far exceeds its capacity to supply, and calls for fundamental changes to economics to enable sustainable engagement with nature including the need for economic and finance decision-making to reflect that humanity and the global economy are embedded within nature, not external to it.
The Economics of Biodiversity programme will build on the advances and thinking from relevant previous and current UKRI investments including:
Potential research questions
Research question that are relevant to the themes may include, but are not limited to, the following:
Understanding the values of biodiversity
What are the full suite of values (both use and non-use) that can be assigned to biodiversity, and how does the associated value chain (meaning, from biodiversity to asset to final benefit realisation) operate?
What financial and human capital inputs are required to realise benefits from natural capital assets and ascertain factors that influence the values assigned to assets?
Can we improve our understanding of the variation between the values held by different users and beneficiaries, and can more consistency in values of some aspects of biodiversity be achieved?
What affects the public ‘willingness to pay’ for biodiversity (including the spatial, temporal factors, and political economy)?
How might predicted societal changes impact upon values and perceptions of value-based management interventions in the future?
If biodiversity continues to decline until 2050, what level of investment (human and financial capital) would have to be made in order to compensate for projected losses?
Biodiversity, natural capital and resilience
What role does biodiversity play in the ecological functioning of the breadth of natural capital and the benefits that flow from it?
How do we move beyond “functional groups” thinking? What organisms can co-exist under different conditions and scenarios?
Are some species more substitutable/replaceable than others, and what are the predicted or observed effects on the ecosystem and impact on ecosystem service delivery through these changes? How do we incorporate this knowledge into adaptive management and policy design?
Which biological and ecological components are responding most significantly to environmental change or anthropogenic pressures, and what are the implications of this for functioning and resilience of these systems?
Management tools for decision-making
To what extent do existing models, tools or policies link biological, ecological, socio-economic factors sufficiently, and what critical components are existing ecosystem service decision-support tools missing?
How well are the requirements of decision makers met by currently available tools, and how are these tools being used?
How can decision support tools be scaled to support decision making across scales (including different policies, regulations and standards)?
To what extent can the measured complexity of biodiversity be reduced or simplified and still provide usable, robust and meaningful outcomes for informing management?
What role do biodiversity values play in assessing trade-offs in decision making?
How can we incorporate existing knowledge to predict or better understand future trade-offs (and how they affect economic outcomes), enable better decision making, and avoid unintended consequences?
Within this programme, this call will provide critical thinking, data analysis, and evidence to begin addressing these work packages and defining how the programme sits in the current fast developing landscape of biodiversity valuation.
This programme will deliver the following outcomes:
- a step change in our understanding of the role that biodiversity plays in ecological function of natural capital assets.
- improved understanding of the full suite of values of biodiversity, which will be standardly incorporated into the valuation of biodiversity within conventional economic analyses and put into practice by decision makers.
- provide a clear narrative on how the use and when the preservation of the natural systems needs to be balanced to underpin the economy and human health and well-being.
- provide new evidence and data to support changed practice and improved environmental performance reporting of natural assets in the private sector.
- development of new decision support tools and management approaches, co-designed by academics and decision makers.
Projects supported in this opportunity are expected to help deliver these outcomes.