Biodiversity net gain (BNG) is mandatory legislation in England designed to that aims to compensate for the biodiversity loss caused by development projects. The UK government describes the scheme as follows:

Biodiversity net gain ( BNG ) is a way of creating and improving natural habitats. BNG makes sure development has a measurably positive impact (‘net gain’) on biodiversity, compared to what was there before development.

BNG is not without controversy. There are multiple examples of it leading to perverse outcomes, failing to do what it was intended to do and suffering from a lack or resources to sufficiently regulate. There are also a number of vibrant habitats  that have been created in part due to funding (or the prospect of funding) from BNG. A good overview of some of the issues and controversies with BNG are outlined in this podcast:

At its heart, a scheme that intends to have a positive impact on biodiversity is credible but as with so many market-driven approaches there are numerous challenges in making these schemes work effectively . Oxford University has published a wide range of research outputs relating the Biodiversity Net Gain. The team at the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery have undertaken the project to coordinate this research and reach out to internal and external partners so as to bring together a diverse set of voices and understand how this scheme could be incrementally improved over time. The Centre is also promoting discussions with research teams that feel more radical overhauls may be required. At its heart, BNG frames a challenging question: in a world where new housing, workplaces and other land use needs are deemed essential; is it possible to provide this infrastructure without Nature bearing the brunt of the costs?

Project outputs

    The potential contribution of revenue from Biodiversity Net Gain offsets towards nature recovery ambitions in Oxfordshire

    Hawkins, I., Addison, P., Malhi, Y. Smith, A., Whitney, M. and zu Ermgassen. S. (2023) The potential contribution of revenue from Biodiversity Net Gain offsets towards nature recovery ambitions in Oxfordshire. Report by the University of Oxford and the Oxfordshire Local Nature Partnership.

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    How do we account for biodiversity? – AGILE Sprint

    This Sprint from the AGILE Initiative aimed to identify just and actionable pathways to BNG, supporting an integrated approach to renewing and restoring nature, working directly with HM Treasury and Defra. The Sprint tackled three interlinked issues:

    • How to robustly measure the biodiversity impacts, positive and negative, of business and governmental investments
    • How to reconcile commitments to invest in biodiversity improvement with the economic and social welfare of people most affected by these investments
    • How to deliver sustained, socially just welfare improvements – together with biodiversity gains at the landscape level – using spatial modelling and an exploration of scenarios for development.

    Team: Natalie EJ Milner Gulland, Elizabeth Duffus, Owen T Lewis, Joss Wright, Joseph Bull, Bob Smith, Cecilia Larrosa, Michael Clark, Julia Baker, Prue Addison, Felix Eigenbrod, Ian Bateman, Ben Groom,  Hannah Nicholas, Amber Butler,  Tom Atkins, Vidya Narayanan, Rececca Collins, Mattia Mancini, Richard Grenyer, Richard F Comont, Dave Goddard, Dave Goulson, Jeff Ollerton, Martin C Townsend, Judy A Webb, Richard I Wilson, Sophus O.S.E zu Ermgassen

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    Improving the ecological outcomes of compensatory conservation by addressing governance gaps: a case study of Biodiversity Net Gain in England

    Rampling, E., zu Ermgassen, S., Hawkins, I., & Bull, J. W. (2023, April 14). Improving the ecological outcomes of compensatory conservation by addressing governance gaps: a case study of Biodiversity Net Gain in England. https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/avrhf

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    Exploring the ecological outcomes of mandatory biodiversity net gain using evidence from early-adopter jurisdictions in England

    zu Ermgassen, S. O. S. E., Marsh, S., Ryland, K., Church, E., Marsh, R., Bull, J. W. (2021). Exploring the ecological outcomes of mandatory biodiversity net gain using evidence from early-adopter jurisdictions in England. Conservation Letters. 14: e12820. https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12820

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    Incorporating local nature-based cultural values into biodiversity No Net Loss strategies

    Victoria F. Griffiths, Joseph W. Bull, Julia Baker, Mark Infield, Dilys Roe, Dianah Nalwanga, Achilles Byaruhanga, E.J. Milner-Gulland, Incorporating local nature-based cultural values into biodiversity No Net Loss strategies, World Development, Volume 128, 2020, 104858, ISSN 0305-750X,
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2019.104858. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305750X19305078)

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    No net loss for people and biodiversity

    Griffiths, V.F., Bull, J.W., Baker, J. and Milner-Gulland, E.J. (2019), No net loss for people and biodiversity. Conservation Biology, 33: 76-87. https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13184

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    Importance of Baseline Specification in Evaluating Conservation Interventions and Achieving No Net Loss of Biodiversity

    BULL, J.W., GORDON, A., LAW, E.A., SUTTLE, K.B. and MILNER-GULLAND, E.J. (2014), Importance of Baseline Specification in Evaluating Conservation Interventions and Achieving No Net Loss of Biodiversity. Conservation Biology, 28: 799-809. https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.12243

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    Biodiversity offsets in theory and practice

    Bull JW, Suttle KB, Gordon A, Singh NJ, Milner-Gulland EJ. Biodiversity offsets in theory and practice. Oryx. 2013;47(3):369-380. doi:10.1017/S003060531200172X

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    The Environmental Benefits from Nature Tool – Beta Test Version

    The Environmental Benefits from Nature tool is designed to work alongside Biodiversity metric 3.0 and provide developers, planners and other interested parties with a means of enabling wider benefits for people and nature from biodiversity net gain.

    SMITH, A.CA., BAKER, J.B, BERRY, P.M.A, BUTTERWORTH, T.C, CHAPMAN, A.E, HARLE, T. E, HEAVER, M.F, HÖLZINGER, O.C, HOWARD, BG., NORTON, L.R.H, RICE, P. E, SCOTT, A. I,
    THOMPSON, A E., WARBURTON, C E. AND WEBB, J E. Environmental Benefits from Nature (EBN) Tool – User Guide (Beta Version, July 2021).
    University of Oxford A – Balfour Beatty, B – WSP, C – Natural England E – Department for Environment and Rural Affairs F – Ecosystems Knowledge Network G – Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, H. University of Northumbria, I.

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