Key to the success of the BESS programme is how well our research findings translate into new knowledge and understanding of the linkages between biodiversity and ecosystem services and, in particular, how useful this is for practitioners and stakeholders.

Each of the main research groups are engaged in their own knowledge exchange and impact activities detailed on their websites. The BESS Directorate has a broader responsibility in this area, described in our Engagement Strategy and Engagement Implementation Plan.

BESS also has a regular newsletter, a twitter feed, publications and videos as well as playing a full and active role in the Stellar Communications Group, which is a network of communications professionals from ecosystem services organisations and initiatives.

Knowledge exchange awards

BESS funded two knowledge exchange grants in 2014, both of which have led to exciting outputs and new relationships with industry and business:

  • CORPORATES - The Cooperative Participatory Evaluation of Renewable Technologies on Ecosystem Services.

Download CORPORATES Impact Summary (pdf)

CORPORATES seeks to develop a process for knowledge exchange around marine ecosystem services within the context of marine spatial planning decisions; partners included Aberdeen University (project lead) (Biological Sciences, Geography and Law), the Scottish Association for Marine Studies, Marine Scotland Science and the James Hutton Institute. The project centres on a real-life case in the form of proposed off-shore wind farms and Marine Protected Areas in the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Tay, Scotland, an area where varied interests coincide in space and time. While stakeholder consultation is already integral to existing procedures, the project investigated the usefulness of embedding a participatory ecosystem services approach into the decision-making process.

  • Assessing and enhancing farmland biodiversity within the food industry: towards an evidence-based online tool.

Download Knowledge Exchange Report (pdf)

This project set out to develop an evidence-based biodiversity module for the Cool Farm Tool, combining an evidence synthesis and assessment method developed at the University of Cambridge with an existing approach to farm-scale biodiversity assessment agreed by the SAI Platform and developed by CLM Netherlands.

The Cool Farm Alliance is a not-for-profit enterprise with corporate partners that include some the largest global food and drink companies: Unilever, Heineken, PepsiCo, and others.

Synthesising BESS research across the programme

All of the consortia addressed common questions within their programmes of research, with the research grants, workshops and working groups designed to plug any gaps perceived at the time. These questions are:

  • What are the linkages between the flows of ecosystem services from stocks of natural capital at a range of scales, especially at the landscape level, and across environmental gradients?
  • How are these stocks, flows and the linkages between them likely to change in the future and how resilient will they be to drivers such as climate change, food security imperatives, population growth, etc?
  • Can we develop novel tools and indicators for tracking and measuring changes in stocks and flows?

 As the research has progressed and outputs have emerged, the Directorate has begun to synthesise much of this material under the following headings:

Education and outreach

BESS has developed and run learning activities that are linked to the UK regional curricula.  Resources are designed to help parents, teachers and researchers to highlight how we depend on natural resources, to support outdoor learning and to encourage debate about our relationship with nature.  

Mapping ecosystem services

One of the most frequent questions asked of BESS is “how can I map ecosystem services in order to help me make decisions about interventions and planning?” The field is at a relatively early stage of development and it is no surprise that a multitude of tools and methods have been developed, some simple and easy to use, others more complicated, like InVEST, LUCI and ARIES.  These three models are being compared in the BESS grant Location, configuration, distribution: the role of landscape pattern and diversity in ecosystem services.

To help those wishing to map ecosystem services, BESS has been involved with developing a variety of tools.  

Nature Improvement Areas

In 2011, Defra funded an imaginative scheme designed to improve connectivity between the UK’s highly fragmented natural habitats following the so-called Lawton report. 12 areas across England and Wales were targeted as Nature Improvement Areas and their teams charged with monitoring the local biodiversity and ecosystem services. BESS helped to develop the programme from the start and at the end of the initiative through two workshops: Measuring and Monitoring ecosystem services and Practical approaches for carbon and water related ecosystem services.  

National Ecosystem Assessment Follow-on

The National Ecosystem Assessment or NEA brought together the current information on the state of the UK’s ecosystems and services. The NEA Follow-on or NEAFO commissioned research on some of the uncertainties and problem areas identified in the original synthesis. BESS part-funded the NEAFO, ran a workshop to identify stakeholder needs and co-authored the report Tools – Applications, Benefits and Linkages for Ecosystem Science (TABLES).


As the research proceeds, a steady stream of publication outputs is emerging and this is updated at regular intervals. Outputs range from academic papers and reviews in the highest international journals to Policy and Practice notes.

View all BESS funded publications here.