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Valuing biodiversity in urban areas and new developments

A UKRI project to Improve understanding of the economics of biodiversity, funded by Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)



The UK Government's Nature Positive 2030 report recommends businesses, organisations, cities, and local authorities adopt targets to become Nature Positive - putting the crises of biodiversity loss and climate change on an equal footing. There is a gap between this national level ambition to enhance biodiversity and implementation on the ground, particularly evident in urban environments.  ​ Densification or the compact city approach is a main strategy for urban development. Urbanisation and densification have resulted in environmental degradation and severe habitat fragmentation in towns and cities. This impacts the resilience of remaining bio-diversity pockets and diminishes the effectiveness of proposed enhancements. The failure to move towards a system of net environmental gain in development risks undermining the government's plans for a green recovery.  Biodiversity may benefit other eco-system services, such as sustainable drainage, outdoor recreation, and noise and heat attenuation, yet the economic value of biodiversity is undercounted in existing planning tools. Furthermore, there is a need to understand the spatial needs of the eco-system services and different types of biodiversity to ensure that they function as intended and are resilient over the long-term. Such an integrated approach will recognise both synergistic benefits and trade-offs that will be critical in understanding local vs national or global benefits.  Biurbs is co-led by a multi-disciplinary team of leading researchers from across the country and innovative architecture and green infrastructure practitioners. The research engages with decision makers and stakeholders, to help inform practical, well-grounded tools and guidance. The research assesses the economic value of these benefits to different land-uses. It considers different biodiversity conservation practices as part of an integrated suite of eco-system services, and where these practices may be best implemented through new development/regeneration. The research examines micro (site) and meso (local neighbourhoods) spatial scales and examine land-uses within these areas, namely: residential, industry & commerce, community & public buildings, transport & infrastructure, outdoor recreation. Twenty exemplary real world urban sites will be examined, and lessons learned. Two sites are to be examined in-depth to assess how the state-of-the-art approach to biodiversity improvement can be integrated into planning and how this impacts the economics of urban land- uses.  ​The project involves extensive collaboration with UK stakeholders to ensure the work is relevant to decision making in practice and addresses the Government's nature conservation and greening objectives as well as wider societal factors including adapting to climate change and social cohesion. Improved understanding of the economics of biodiversity within greenfield and brownfield spaces will empower decision makers including communities, built environment professionals and local authorities to protect and enhance the natural capital in urban areas.  ​ The research will be connected through four work packages that link to two themes of the call: Biodiversity in decision making and Management tools for decision makers. The results will be disseminated through non-technical reports to improve understanding and uptake across the sector and supported by in-depth economic and technical assessment work.


Objective 1

To understand the challenges and opportunities in recognising and realising biodiversity in redevelopment and the reasons for the lack of resilience of this biodiversity, at the macro (city), meso (local neighbourhood) and micro (site) scale and within different land-uses in the urban environment. 

Objective 2

To evaluate spatial planning/valuation tools using state-of-the-art understanding of the synergistic role that biodiversity can play in meeting the potentially competing demands of different policy objectives and land-use/users at different spatial scales related to densification in the urban environment. 

Objective 3

To develop and evaluate a multi-model workflow that explicitly tackles the biodiversity-development conundrum as a 'commons problem' through the in-depth study of up to three sites selected in conjunction with stakeholders. 

Objective 4

To assess how the process of joint value creation at different spatial scales can be supported by means of making biodiversity benefits visible and tangible in a format decision-makers are familiar with. 

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