Biodiversity & Ecosystem Service Sustainability (BESS)


Improving understanding of the role of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning and service provision at a landscape-scale.

Biodiversity & Ecosystem Service Sustainability (BESS) is a six year (2011-2017) research programme, which aims to contribute to our understanding of the functional role of biodiversity in key ecosystem processes.

Biodiversity underpins ecosystem goods and services through the functional role it plays within ecosystems. There is increasing concern that the ongoing loss of biodiversity may compromise the provision of ecosystem goods and services in the near future.

The BESS programme will undertake research and activities in an integrated way and take a holistic approach to exploring the functional role of biodiversity in UK ecosystems across a range of environmental gradients and scales.

BESS Announcement of Opportunity: Knowledge Exchange Grants

Closing date: 14 Jan

30 Oct 2013

The Biodiversity & Ecosystem Service Sustainability (BESS) programme is inviting applications for Knowledge Exchange Grants.

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Landscapes in the UK are being increasingly viewed as multi-functional ecosystems, which are required to deliver a wide range of ecosystem services to people including food, clean air and water, health and recreation.

The multi-functional view of UK landscapes is firmly on the policy agenda, as evidenced by policy-led activities such as the National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA), the UK's first analysis of the environment delivering long-term benefits to people through the provision of ecosystem goods and services.

We know that there has been significant biodiversity loss in the UK, but we have a very limited understanding of its functional consequences in terms of levels of biodiversity we must have in order to provide the ecosystem services we need and how to manage land and resource use to support important biodiversity-ecosystem function relationships in an integrated way.

Consequently, we lack tools to guide land and resource use decisions for multiple ecosystem services, and help us adapt to future environmental change.

In order to address these research challenges, the BESS programme will endeavour to address the following scientific goals by undertaking replicated research across a small number of UK landscape study areas:

  • to understand the functional role of biodiversity in UK ecosystems across a range of ecosystem goods and services, environmental gradients and scales typical of real landscapes;
  • to identify critical levels of biodiversity required to deliver a range of ecosystem services that meet societal needs, and the land and resource use associated with these biodiversity levels; and
  • to develop impact assessment tools to explore the implications of land and resource use change on biodiversity and a range of ecosystem services in a changing environment.

In order to increase our understanding of the consequences of biodiversity loss, the BESS programme will undertake research and activities in an integrated way and take a holistic approach to exploring the functional role of biodiversity in UK ecosystems across a range of environmental gradients and scales.


2011 - 2017

Can I apply for a grant?

No, there are no current grant funding opportunities for this programme.


This programme has a budget of £13 million.

Programme awards

BESS award details (excluding studentships) are shown in our live online grants browser - Grants on the Web (GOTW). Details of specific call awards are also shown in the pdf documents below.

View live details of BESS funded grants - external link

View live details of BESS fellowship awards - external link

Consortium Grants

The BESS consortia projects will establish the research platforms and address the core aims of the programme. Five consortium grants were funded. All but one were joint awards, so a total of 27 grants were awarded, detailed below.

BESS funded consortium grants (PDF, 69KB)


Five studentships have been awarded:

  1. Plymouth Marine Laboratory and University of St Andrews - The impact of multiple climate stressors on coastal biodiversity and associated ecosystem services
  2. University of Sheffield - Cultural and educational services from green space: Environmental and social determinants (CASE award)
  3. University of York and University of Cardiff - The effects of storminess on coastal ecosystem services and wellbeing
  4. Cranfield University - Matching scales: Impact of natural scales on planning, decision and policy environment
  5. University of Sheffield and University of Bradford - Ecological priorities and real-world governance in the restoration of wetlands in the Humberhead Levels landscape: Do they differ and how can this be overcome?

BESS funded studentships (PDF, 79KB)

2013 Awards

These awards target specific research areas in order to complement and extend the BESS research portfolio, building on the existing consortia and studentship awards. One fellowship, five research grants and two small grants were awarded.

BESS funded 2013 awards (PDF, 205KB)

Tansley Working Groups

The Tansley initiative aims to capitalise on NERC research investments by providing a platform to bring together researchers with different, but related, backgrounds to explore particular issues or ideas, and the emphasis will be on identifying topics for Working Groups that require new combinations of skills, datasets or analyses.

Tansley Working Groups funded (PDF, 79KB)

Programme Executive Board

The Programme Executive Board (PEB) is responsible for providing the strategic direction for the programme, and is the ultimate decision making authority for the programme.

  • Dr Simon Kerley, NERC head of terrestrial sciences (Chair)
  • Lucy Hopewell, NERC programme manager
  • Professor Dave Raffaelli, former BESS director
  • Professor Piran White, BESS director

For details of the Directorate, Programme Advisory Group and Secretariat please see the contact page of the BESS website - external link.

The following documents and links are related to or give more information about this programme.

BESS Science Plan 2011-2017 (PDF, 203KB)

BESS Implementation Plan 2011-2017 (PDF, 284KB)

BESS Communications and KE Strategy (PDF, 183KB)

BESS Data Management Strategy (PDF, 314KB)

The development of the BESS and Marine Ecosystems theme action plan and programme was informed by two workshops held in December 2008 that bought together experts on ecosystem sustainability from the marine, and terrestrial and freshwater, communities, respectively. A combined report from these workshops can be found below.

Combined report (PDF, 204KB)

Combined report - Annex 1 (PDF, 87KB)

Combined report - Annex 2 (PDF, 569KB)

Combined report - Annex 3 (PDF, 569KB)

Combined report - Annex 4 (PDF, 40KB)

DURESS Upland Scenarios - external link