How can we achieve biodiversity net gain?

CASE award with Anglian Water Services Limited (BOND_UENV20ARIES)

How can we achieve biodiversity net gain?

CASE award with Anglian Water Services Limited (BOND_UENV20ARIES)

Project Description


Dr Alan Bond, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

Dr Aldina Franco, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

Mr Chris Gerrard, Anglian Water Services Ltd

Dr Julia Baker, Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering


Scientific Background

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).

Research Methodology

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.


ARIES DTP training (e.g. grand challenges, summer school, advanced workshops), training at UEA (in social science and quantitative data analyses methods) and by the CASE partner (Anglian Water) (e.g. elearning 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;
  • Prioritization software and functional traits analyses;
  • Metaanalysis, systematic review method.

Person Specification

We seek an enthusiastic, proactive individual with a passion for biodiversity conservation and a desire to engage, and work collaboratively, with diverse stakeholders. Suitable backgrounds include both natural and social sciences.



  • 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.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, and will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.
  • 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 (see
  • This studentship will start on 1st October 2020, and the closing date for applications is 23:59 on 15th January 2020.
  • Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 18/19 February 2020.
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor.
  • Please note that the joint NERC-ESRC ARIES-SeNSS studentship projects have different deadlines and funding arrangements. For full details please visit, or contact

Studentship Open for Applications

Apply Now