Development and use of environmental indicators to inform international policy


Researcher: Mike Burgass

Period: 2014-2018

Title of research: Development and use of environmental indicators to inform international policy

Funder: Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Scholarship from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London.


Overview: My research explores the design and use of environmental indicators in policy and practice. A key outcome is to advance how biodiversity indicators can be used predictively, in order to influence decision making capabilities and achieve Sustainable Development Goals.

Outline of research: My research has studied a number of indicators that are used to track large-scale environmental and social change. Through analysing sources and types of uncertainty, we can better understand how indicators respond to change and if they act as expected. Then rather than relying on indicators to merely report on the past, we can start to use them predictively and analyse the outcomes of different policy scenarios.

I am testing these approaches using the Arctic as a case study region. Having utilised the Ocean Health Index to perform the first pan-Arctic assessment of marine social-ecological systems, I am now focussing on a range of indicators in the Barents Sea region. Collaborating with the Institute of Marine Research in Norway, we are testing a range of biodiversity and fisheries indicators under different fishing scenarios in a complex ecosystem model. The results of which will help inform indicator design at the national level.

Project outputs:

* Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions Fellow 2017.

* Invited panelist to Foreign Office event: “The Arctic: Local Changes, Global Implications”.

* Symposium leader at International Congress for Conservation Biology in Cartagena, Colombia, July 2017 entitled “Biodiversity indicators: Measuring change in a dynamic and uncertain world”.

* Burgass, M.J., Halpern, B.S., Nicholson, E., Milner-Gulland, E.J., 2017. Navigating uncertainty in environmental composite indicators. Ecological Indicators, 75, 268–278.

* Burgass, M.J., Milner-Gulland, E.J., Stewart Lowndes, J.S., O’Hara, C., Afflerbach, J,C. & Halpern, B.S., 2018. A pan-Arctic assessment of the status of marine social-ecological systems (In Review).