Dr Richard Bradbury

Head of People Conservation Science, Conservation Science

Background

I lead the ‘people conservation science’ team at RSPB’s Centre for Conservation Science, monitoring and understanding the human side of conservation issues, testing solutions to problems and evaluating whether actions work. The team has a particular interest in measuring and valuing nature’s contributions to people, in particular natural climate solutions and sustainable agriculture, and understanding the roles of nudges, perceptions, attitudes and connection to nature for influencing behaviour change.

We work in close collaboration with other teams in the Centre for Conservation Science, colleagues across RSPB and Birdlife International, and a wide range of other academic, statutory agency, government and NGO partners.

External Activities

  • 2015 to present: Honorary Research Fellow at Cambridge University
  • 2018 to present: member of Natural England Scientific Advisory Committee
  • 2019 to present: member of Cambridge University ‘C-Clear’ Doctoral Training Programme Advisory Board
  • 2021 – present:  Vice President, British Ornithologists’ Union

Partners and Collaboration

  • Prof Andrew Balmford, Cambridge University
  • Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife International
  • Dr Karl Evans, University of Sheffield
  • Dr Kelvin Peh, University of Southampton
  • Dr Bendan Fisher, University of Vermont

Contact

Richard Bradbury

Dr Richard Bradbury

Head of People Conservation Science, Conservation Science

The Lodge, Potton Road, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2DL

richard.bradbury@rspb.org.uk

@Rich_B_Bradbury

Google Scholar

Specialisms

Ecosystem services

Selected Publications

The economic consequences of conserving or restoring sites for nature

Nature provides many benefits for people, yet there are few data on how changes at individual sites impact the net value of ecosystem service provision. A 2002 review found only five analyses comparing the net economic benefits of conserving nature versus pursuing an alternative, more intensive human use. Here we revisit this crucial comparison, synthesizing recent data from 62 sites worldwide. In 24 cases with economic estimates of services, conservation or restoration benefits (for example, greenhouse gas regulation, flood protection) tend to outweigh those private benefits (for example, profits from agriculture or logging) driving change to the alternative state. Net benefits rise rapidly with increasing social cost of carbon. Qualitative data from all 62 sites suggest that monetization of additional services would further increase the difference. Although conservation and restoration did not universally provide greater net value than the alternative state, across a large, geographically and contextually diverse sample, our findings indicate that at current levels of habitat conversion, conserving and restoring sites typically benefits human prosperity.

Date
08 March 2021
RSPB Authors
Dr Richard Bradbury, Dr Michael MacDonald
Authors
Bradbury, RB Butchart, SHM Fisher, B Hughes, FMR Ingwall-King, L MacDonald, MA Merriman, JC Peh, KSH Pellier, AS Thomas, DHL
Published in
Nature Sustainability
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The potential contribution of terrestrial nature-based solutions to a national ‘net zero’ climate target

Many national governments have incorporated nature-based solutions (NbS) in their plans to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. However, uncertainties persist regarding both feasibility and consequences of major NbS deployment. Using the United Kingdom as a national-level case study, we examined the potential contribution of three terrestrial NbS: peatland restoration, saltmarsh creation and woodland creation.

While there is substantial political and societal interest in these three NbS, they also have strong potential for competition with other land uses, which will be a critical barrier to substantial deployment. We conducted a national mapping exercise to assess the potential area available for woodland creation. We then assessed the combined climate change mitigation potential to 2100 for the three NbS options under a range of ambition levels.

In line with the most ambitious targets examined, 2 Mha of land is potentially available for new woodland. However, climate change mitigation benefits of woodland are strongly dependent on management choices. By 2100, scenarios with a greater proportion of broadleaved woodlands outsequester non-native conifer plantations, which are limited by regular timber harvesting.

Peatland restoration offers the greatest mitigation per unit area, whilst the contribution from saltmarsh creation is limited by the small areas involved. Overall, the contribution of these NbS to the United Kingdom’s net zero emissions target is relatively modest. Even with the most ambitious targets considered here, by 2100, the total cumulative mitigation from the three NbS is equivalent to only 3 years' worth of UK emissions at current levels.

Policy implications. Major deployment of nature-based solutions (NbS) is possible in the United Kingdom but reaching ‘net zero’ primarily requires substantial and sustained reductions in fossil fuel use. However, facilitating these NbS at the national scale could offer many additional benefits for people and biodiversity. This demands that policy-makers commit to a UK-wide strategic approach that prioritises the ‘nature’ aspect of NbS. In the push to reach ‘net zero’, climate change mitigation should not be used to justify land management practices that threaten biodiversity ambitions.

Date
06 September 2021
RSPB Authors
Dr Tom Finch, Dr Richard Bradbury, Dr Graeme Buchanan, Dr Rob Field
Authors
Bradfer‐Lawrence, Tom Finch, Tom Bradbury, Richard B Buchanan, Graeme M Midgley, Andrew Field, Rob H
Published in
Journal of Applied Ecology
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Making more effective use of human behavioural science in conservation interventions

Conservation is predominantly an exercise in trying to change human behaviour – whether that of consumers whose choices drive unsustainable resource use, of land managers clearing natural habitats, or of policymakers failing to deliver on environmental commitments. Yet conservation research and practice have made only limited use of recent advances in behavioural science, including more novel behaviour change interventions. Instead conservationists mostly still rely on traditional behaviour change interventions – education, regulation and material incentivisation – largely without applying recent insights from behavioural science about how to improve such approaches. This paper explores how behavioural science could be more widely and powerfully applied in biodiversity conservation. We consider the diverse cast of actors involved in conservation problems and the resulting breadth of behaviour change that conservationists might want to achieve. Drawing on health research, we present a catalogue of types of interventions for changing behaviour, considering both novel, standalone interventions and the enhancement of more traditional conservation interventions. We outline a framework for setting priorities among interventions based on their likely impact, using ideas developed for climate change mitigation. We caution that, despite its promise, behavioural science is not a silver bullet for conservation. The effects of interventions aimed at changing behaviour can be modest, temporary, and context-dependent in ways that are as-yet poorly understood. We therefore close with a call for interventions to be tested and the findings widely disseminated to enable researchers and practitioners to build a much-needed evidence base on the effectiveness and limitations of these tools.

Date
23 July 2021
RSPB Authors
Dr Richard Bradbury
Authors
Balmford, Andrew Bradbury, Richard B Bauer, Jan M Broad, Steven Burgess, Gayle Burgman, Mark Byerly, Hilary Clayton, Susan Espelosin, Dulce Ferraro, Paul J
Published in
Biological Conservation
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Biodiversity conservation as a promising frontier for behavioural science

Human activities are degrading ecosystems worldwide, posing existential threats for biodiversity and humankind. Slowing and reversing this degradation will require profound and widespread changes to human behaviour. Behavioural scientists are therefore well placed to contribute intellectual leadership in this area. This Perspective aims to stimulate a marked increase in the amount and breadth of behavioural research addressing this challenge. First, we describe the importance of the biodiversity crisis for human and non-human prosperity and the central role of human behaviour in reversing this decline. Next, we discuss key gaps in our understanding of how to achieve behaviour change for biodiversity conservation and suggest how to identify key behaviour changes and actors capable of improving biodiversity outcomes. Finally, we outline the core components for building a robust evidence base and suggest priority research questions for behavioural scientists to explore in opening a new frontier of behavioural science for the benefit of nature and human wellbeing.

Date
13 May 2021
RSPB Authors
Dr Richard Bradbury
Authors
Nielsen, Kristian Steensen Marteau, Theresa M Bauer, Jan M Bradbury, Richard B Broad, Steven Burgess, Gayle Burgman, Mark Byerly, Hilary Clayton, Susan Espelosin, Dulce
Published in
Nature Human Behaviour
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The value of habitats of conservation importance to climate change mitigation in the UK

The twin pressures of climate change and biodiversity loss mean that it is imperative to manage land in ways that benefit carbon storage and biodiversity conservation. We focus on a set of UK habitats of recognised conservation value, first quantifying the carbon stored in the vegetation and top 30 cm of soil in these areas. We estimate that these areas store 0.55 gigatonnes of carbon in vegetation and soil to a depth of 30 cm, approximately 30% of the UK terrestrial carbon store to a similar depth, on 20% of the land area. Most of these high carbon, high conservation value habitats are in upland areas, with particularly notable extents and mass of carbon in Scotland. In their current condition, we estimate these areas to exert a net sequestration effect of more than 8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents per year. Furthermore, restoration of these habitats from their current, generally poor condition could result in an extra 6–7 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents per year, in the context of the UK's total emissions of 455.9 million tonnes CO2eq in 2017. Restoration of degraded bogs would avoid significant annual emissions (currently negating significant sequestration by woodlands and coastal habitats) and should be a particular priority.

Date
07 June 2020
RSPB Authors
Dr Rob Field, Dr Graeme Buchanan, Dr Richard Bradbury
Authors
Field, RH Buchanan, GM Hughes, A Smith, P Bradbury, RB
Published in
Biological Conservation
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