The Oxford Martin Programme on

Biodiversity and Society

The Challenge

The 2021 World Economic Forum Global Risks Report ranks biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse as one of the top five threats humanity will face in the next decade, based on its potential impact on supply chains, food and health.

Over half of the world’s total GDP is estimated to be moderately or highly dependent on nature. And declines in biodiversity threaten more than 80% of Sustainable Development Goal targets.

There is widespread and growing recognition of the value of biodiversity - its inherent value, its economic value, and its potential value in combatting climate change through Nature-based Solutions (NbS). The Oxford Martin Programme on Biodiversity and Society aims to harness this recognition, and the drive to ‘build back better’ from the COVID-19 pandemic, to support systemic change towards a more sustainable relationship between humanity and our planet, and to mobilise financial resources at scale for its protection and recovery.

Drawing expertise from across the University in ecology, finance and economics, social sciences, human wellbeing, cultural values, AI, machine learning, satellite-based monitoring, and other disciplines and by working closely with stakeholders the programme aims to address wide-ranging challenges to move towards stemming the tide of biodiversity loss, and developing opportunities for biodiversity recovery, globally.

The programme will be implemented at scales from local to global, working with collaborators in business and in government.

Visit the Biodiversity and Society website

Activities will include:

Building a state-of-the-art biodiversity modelling platform that robustly predicts the future impact of human activities at spatial scales meaningful to decision-makers. This will enable the prediction of future biodiversity trends to identify local conservation strategies.

Developing the local landscape as a case study, nature-recovery laboratory and community of practice. This will seek to develop collaborations between the University and local stakeholders and landowners to put Oxfordshire at the forefront of creating and testing national approaches to nature monitoring and recovery.

Identifying how to build back better with nature post-pandemic. To enhance understanding of the short and long-term economic recovery potential of investments in nature and have this knowledge inform the design of economic, climate, and development policy for the Global South.

Bringing biodiversity impact into business decision-making. A standardised, robust framework for calculating biodiversity losses and gains will be developed, which could guide decision-making at the international and national policy levels, as well as directly by companies and investors.

We call on the UK Government to ensure that mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain legislation fulfils its potential

The Government's flagship Environment Act 2021 requires that from 2023 all developments in England must generate a minimum 10% uplift in biodiversity through habitat restoration, creation or enhancement. This has the potential to be a transformative step in the protection and restoration of nature.

However, this requirement has major flaws which could undermine it. Not least that there are no credible mechanisms for monitoring or enforcing biodiversity gains, and current government guidance actively advises local authorities against taking enforcement action except in a case of ‘serious harm to a local public amenity’.

A group of researchers from across the UK specialising in biodiversity net gain is calling on the government to address these shortcomings now, so the policy truly improves England’s nature in line with national goals to halt wildlife loss.

Read our open letter to the UK government