Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Biosciences Seminar Speaker 23 April 2015

Biosciences Seminar Series - Winter 2015
23 April 2015 - 1pm - Zoology Museum (Wallace 129)

Biodiversity offsetting: challenges in theory and practice

Prof E.J. Milner-Gulland


After the Easter break our seminar series resumes with a talk by Prof EJ Milner-Gulland, Professor in Conservation Science at Imperial College London, Department of Life Sciences at the Silwood Park campus. E.J. leads the Imperial College Conservation Science group and is the Director of the multidisciplinary Grand Challenges in Ecosystems and the Environment group.

E.J. is broadly interested into how people interact with the environment, especially the incentives and attitudes of natural resource users; social-ecological system dynamics; and management of natural resources. A key interest concerns also how to reach robust decisions for managing socio-ecological systems, in the face of uncertainty determined by our lack of full knowledge and understanding of the underlying processes. E.J.'s research is hence highly interdisciplinary, covering the full range from ecology to social psychology, economics, and anthropology, using a combination of modelling and field work approaches.

Specific example of research include the 20-year research programme on the conservation ecology of the saiga antelope (see here), bushmeat exploitation in Africa (see here) or the development of a decision-theoretic framework for the allocation of limited resources for conservation actions (see here). The seminar, specifically, will focus on the very topical yet also highly controversial topic of biodiversity offsetting (e.g. see here, here, here).


Biodiversity offsetting is expanding rapidly, both as a tool of corporate social responsibility and in government policy-making around the world (including in the UK). Offsets are used as the last stage of a "mitigation hierarchy" to compensate for the residual damage caused by developments. The aim is for the development overall to cause "no net loss" of biodiversity. 

Offsetting has attracted huge controversy and concern from some, while others see it as a way of rebalancing the development-conservation trade-off in favour of nature. In this seminar I will highlight and explore both the theoretical and conceptual issues that need to be addressed in order to reach no net loss of biodiversity from development. 

Using a case study of the Ustyurt plateau in Uzbekistan, I look at how offsetting could work in practice. I then touch on some work I'm about to start on using offsetting in a marine context, to think about bycatch mitigation. I sum up by suggesting some ways in which scientists could engage with the offsetting debate.

Hope to see many of you - everyone most welcome to attend!

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