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Conservation and Ecosystem Services in the New biodiversity Economy (CESINE)

Conservation and Ecosystem Services in the New biodiversity Economy (CESINE)

The aim of this research is to analyse how biodiversity conservation in Europe is being reconstructed around the measurement of the economic values of nature. Our case study is the UK: a country providing a relevant context for our research given its key role at both EU and global levels in the emerging biodiversity economy. The analysis is focused on two prominent policies: payments for ecosystem services and biodiversity offsets.

Understanding the application of market-based instruments to conservation poses a genuine interdisciplinary research challenge: to trace the links between science, relation to nature, socio-economic context, mental conceptions of the world, and social relations. Thus, our theoretical approach will draw on the interdisciplinary field of political ecology and on critical geographical research. In particular, our analysis will be guided by research on the neoliberalization of nature and David Harvey's work on the historical-geographic conception of neoliberalism, Neil Smith on uneven development and the capitalist production of nature and space, and Noel Castree on neoliberalism's environmental logic, while also drawing on Marxian theory of value.

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Our research objectives will be achieved through a set of common methods involving linked programmes of key actor interviews conducted at both national (UK) and local (field areas) levels. Our fieldwork will involve interviews with economists, bankers, governmental officials, regulators, conservation scientists and environmentalists in the UK who are involved in the establishment of an ecosystem services framework and biodiversity offsetting. Additionally, we will conduct interviews with all relevant stakeholders (e.g. local authorities, environmental administrations, private sector organizations, businesses, local community committees, NGOs) in specific field areas. Fieldwork will also include elements of informal interviews and observation, taking opportunities to participate in local meetings, living in the areas while conducting interviews.

TreesResearch on the ecosystem services framework, conservation banks and offset trading mechanisms have to date focused on the USA, and wetland mitigation and species banking. There has so far been limited analysis of the emergent habitat banking and biodiversity offsets in the EU. Critical interdisciplinary analysis of specific case studies is generally lacking. The UK's role within the EU and globally in its early application of a neoliberal framework to conservation is still under-researched. Through our research we aim to address these research gaps.

Review of the relevant literature suggests four main areas in need of further research: the ecological and social factors which support or oppose the emerging biodiversity economy; the governance challenges that arise from the quantification of biodiversity and ecosystem services; the social and conservation effects generated by the biodiversity economy; the investigation of alternative policy options. This project by conducting interdisciplinary research in these four areas can contribute in the field of political ecology and in the research on the neoliberalization of non-human nature while providing enhanced critical reflection on the changing nature of biodiversity conservation and the wider issue of society's relation to non-human nature in the post-financial crisis era.

Publications

  • Apostolopoulou, E., Adams, W.M., Greco, E. Biodiversity offsetting and 'equivalent natures': a Marxist Critique. ACME - An International Journal for Critical Geographies, in press.
  • Apostolopoulou, E., Adams, W.M., 2017. Cutting nature to fit: Urbanization, neoliberalism and biodiversity offsetting in England. Geoforum, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2017.05.013
  • Apostolopoulou, E., Adams, W.M., 2017. Biodiversity offsetting and conservation: reframing nature to save it. Oryx 51, 23-31.
  • Apostolopoulou, E, Adams, W.M., 2017. Biodiversity offsetting and the reframing of conservation: a reply to ten Kate & von Hase and Dempsey & Collard. Oryx 51, 40-42.
  • Apostolopoulou, E. 2016. Biodiversity offsetting in England: governance rescaling, socio-spatial injustices and the neoliberalization of nature. Web Ecology 6, 67–71.
  • Apostolopoulou, E., Adams, W.M. 2015. Neoliberal capitalism and conservation in the post-crisis era: the dialectics of "green" and "un-green" grabbing in Greece and the UK. Antipode 47, 15-35.
  • Apostolopoulou, E., Bormpoudakis, D., Tzanopoulos, J. 'Feathered obstacles to economic revival' and biodiversity offsetting: A topography of Lodge Hill, South East England. Under review.
  • Apostolopoulou, E. Offsetting nature for whom? Unraveling the depoliticizing effects of biodiversity offsetting in North East England. Under review.

Policy briefs