About BESS

Peak District landscape

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability (BESS) was a six-year research programme run by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) between 2011 and 2017. The programme was designed to answer fundamental questions about the functional role of biodiversity in key ecosystem processes and the delivery of ecosystem process at the landscape scale.


BESS tackled three main questions:

  • 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?


These challenges are described in more detail in the BESS Science Plan and the BESS Implementation Plan. They were addressed by the programme in a number of ways:

  • Four major consortia were established in different parts of the UK to  focus on key landscapes – lowland farmland, coastal wetlands, upland rivers and urban systems.
  • Grants supported a number of research projects and fellowships addressing particular issues.


In addition, BESS funded two Knowledge Exchange grants  and co-funded a joint project on catchment modelling with Defra, Scottish Government and the Macro Nutrient Cycles programme .

The BESS programme was co-ordinated by a directorate based at the University of York. Key elements that bound together the large network of researchers and stakeholders were the energetic early career scientists and the programme of workshops and working groups.


These pages contain the archive of the NERC Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability (BESS) programme