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School of Geography

Linking macroeconomic growth to biodiversity impacts

Supervisor: Dr. Guy Ziv, School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds UK

We live in a world of economic growth, fuelled by increasing population, changes in diet, consumption patterns, accompanied by technological advances. Growth leads to increased impact on the world’s ecosystems which maintain vital biodiversity of plants, animals and other taxa. Estimates suggest biodiversity loss is 10-100 times greater than the safe “planetary boundaries” of our planet (Rockström et al., Ecology and Society (2009)). This dire state led many organizations, primarily governments and NGOs, to try halt biodiversity loss by regulatory and market interventions. In the private sector, driven mostly by consumers’ pressure, large multi-national companies recently committed publicly to decrease their environmental impacts, focusing mainly on rainforests deforestation. Some of these also considered the not only their own direct impact (e.g. caused by their factories) but also their indirect impact, caused by other companies who supply their raw materials, the suppliers of these suppliers etc. up to the farmers, mining companies, agroforestry businesses etc., in other words the entire “supply chain”. Despite recent efforts in these direction (see e.g. Lenzen et al., Nature (2012)), a quantitative understanding of the total (direct plus indirect) impacts and inter-relations between global economy sectors, and the impacts of each on biodiversity across all biomes, is largely lacking.

This studentship will link simplified models of the global economy, e.g. Multi-Regional Input-Output models (Peters et al., Economics Systems Research (2011)), with macroecological models of biodiversity and land use impacts such as GLOBIO3 (Alkemade et al., Ecosystems (2009)) used in the UNEP Global Biodiversity Outlook reports or the recent PREDICTS model by WMCM (Newbold et al., Proc. Roy. Soc. B (2014)). Using these tools, several key questions will be addressed:

1.    How big is the direct versus indirect (supply chain) impact on biodiversity of different economic sector in different nations?

2.   What biomes/geographic regions will be most impacted by future economic growth?

3.    What plausible changes in sourcing of raw materials can minimize these impacts?

Previous experience in macroeconomics, ecology, GIS, and numeric modelling is desired but not essential, providing demonstrated learning skills and willingness to tackle big (and important) questions!

How to apply

  • Submit an application for PhD study in the School of Geography before 18 February 2015.

  • Submit a University of Leeds Anniversary Research Scholarship application form by 18 February 2015. Match funding for this project is contingent on securing a competitive UoL 110 Anniversary Research Scholarship, based mainly on applicant’s qualifications. See UoL studentships website ( for details and an application form. Application should follow instructions online, specifying on application form “School of Geography” and using the above project title and description.

Please contact Dr. Guy Ziv (g.ziv(at) for informal questions regarding the project.