PhD project: How can nature thrive through the Great Acceleration? Evaluating the outcomes of biodiversity offsetting and No Net loss policies around the world

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) lay out society’s ambition to deliver social and economic prosperity for all, while conserving nature on land and sea (SDGs 14 and 15 respectively). However, ‘business-as-usual’ approaches to solving social and economic development challenges may compromise our ability to achieve the SDGs that are focused on eliminating our impacts on species, ecosystems, and the climate (Spaiser et al. 2017; Hickel 2019). How can we enable nature to thrive through the Great Acceleration? 

Sophus zu Ermgassen’s research takes an interdisciplinary approach to exploring global solutions. His core PhD is focused on how to resolve the potential conflict between SDGs 9 (the expansion of the world’s infrastructure networks, with a minimum of $60 trillion projected to be spent on new infrastructure by 2040), and SDGs 14 and 15. In this context, he focuses on understanding the role and outcomes of No Net loss/Net gain policies and biodiversity offsets, a globally-significant mechanism for attempting to resolve perceived trade-offs between infrastructure and biodiversity (Bull and Strange 2018). His methods include evidence-synthesis, spatial mapping, causal inference and surveys. 

Sophus' work alongside his core PhD focuses on understanding market-based instruments for biodiversity conservation, postgrowth economics, ecosystem service quantification, rewilding, and the biodiversity impacts and governance of the global sand-mining industry.  

Sophus also makes short animations to communicate his research.

Sophus zu Ermgassen is a member of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology.


Dr Joseph Bull
Dr Matthew Struebig
Professor Richard Griffiths
Dr Julia Baker (Balfour Beatty)
Professor Niels Strange (University of Copenhagen)


NERC EnvEast PhD Scholarship with CASE partner Balfour Beatty

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