Four Steps for the Earth: becoming ‘nature-positive’ by 2030

Postdoctoral researcher

Sophus zu Ermgassen


Sophus is an ecological economist working on topics broadly related to biodiversity finance, UK environmental policy, biodiversity compensation (e.g. biodiversity offsetting, Biodiversity Net Gain), infrastructure sustainability, nature-positive business, and postgrowth economics. Examples of his recent research projects include evaluating the outcomes of biodiversity compensation systems in the UK and abroad, exploring the sustainability dimensions of the UK housing affordability crisis and charting policy pathways to achieving “a home for all within planetary boundaries”, and evaluating the species threatened globally by society’s growing demand for sand and construction minerals. His work has featured in media outlets including the Guardian, BBC Countryfile and the Times. His Postdoc is funded by EU Horizon 2020 project “SUPERB”, focusing on understanding and evaluating the mechanisms for financing the restoration of forests across Europe. He is also assisting the biodiversity and scenario modelling work packages for the Agile Sprint project: Operationalising Treasury Green Book Guidance on biodiversity


Sophus advises Natural England as a member of their Biodiversity Metric expert advisory group, and the UK Treasury as a member of their Biodiversity Economics Working Group. He is the co-host of the European Society for Ecological Economics podcast “Economics for Rebels”, and in 2022 was named on the ENDS Report “Power List” of the 100 most influential environmental professionals in the UK.

research Interests

Ecological economics, infrastructure sustainability, public policy, impact evaluation, postgrowth economics, biodiversity finance, corporate biodiversity measurement and reporting, biodiversity offsetting, Biodiversity Net Gain, ecological mitigation, sand and construction minerals.

Current Research

Sophus is a Postdoc on EU Horizon 2020 project “SUPERB”, where he is using mixed methods to understand the dynamics of forest restoration finance across the EU. He is exploring scalable mechanisms for financing forest restoration, paying specific attention to mechanisms for ensuring investments truly deliver ‘additional’ ecological improvements, as well as socially just outcomes.

Brief CV


(2018-2022) Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent – PhD. Awarded University Postgraduate award for most outstanding Postgraduate

(2016 – 2017) University of Edinburgh – Ecological Economics (MSc) – Distinction (top of class)

(2014 – 2015) Judge Business School, University of Cambridge – Management Studies (MA) – class 2.1

(2011 – 2014) University of Cambridge, Fitzwilliam College, Donald Walker Scholarship – Zoology (MA) – class 1.


Work experience

Freelance sustainability consultant (2019-onwards)

UK Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology POST Fellow (2020)

Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent, PhD scholar (2018-2022)

German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, Leipzig, Research Assistant (2018)

The Nature Conservancy, Research Assistant (part-time 2014-2018)

AECOM, Environmental Economist (2016)

OC&C Strategy Consultants, Consultant (2015)

Published papers

zu Ermgassen, Sophus, Michael Howard, Leon Bennun, Prue Addison, Joseph Bull, Robin Loveridge, Edward Pollard, and Malcolm Starkey. “Are Corporate Biodiversity Commitments Consistent with Delivering ‘Nature-Positive’ Outcomes? A Review of ‘Nature-Positive’ Definitions, Company Progress and Challenges.” SocArXiv, 2022.

zu Ermgassen, Sophus, Michal Drewniok, Joseph W Bull, Christine Corlet Walker, Mattia Mancini, Josh Ryan-Collins, and André Cabrera Serrenho. “A Home for All within Planetary Boundaries: Pathways for Meeting England’s Housing Needs without Transgressing National Climate and Biodiversity Goals.” SocArXiv, 2022.

White, Thomas, Silviu Petrovan, Leon Bennun, Tom Butterworth, Alec P Christie, Harriet Downey, Sara Bronwen Hunter, Benjamin Jobson, Sophus zu Ermgassen, and William J Sutherland. “Principles for Using Evidence to Improve Biodiversity Impact Mitigation by Business.” SocArXiv, 2022.

Torres, Aurora, Sophus OSE zu Ermgassen, Francisco Ferri-Yanez, Laetitia M Navarro, Isabel MD Rosa, Fernanda Z Teixeira, Constanze Wittkopp, and Jianguo Liu. “Unearthing the Global Impact of Mining Construction Minerals on Biodiversity.” BioRxiv, 2022.

Simmonds, Jeremy S, Amrei von Hase, Fabien Quétier, Susie Brownlie, Martine Maron, Hugh P Possingham, Mathieu Souquet, Sophus OSE zu Ermgassen, Kerry ten Kate, and Hugo M Costa. “Aligning Ecological Compensation Policies with the Post‐2020 Global Biodiversity Framework to Achieve Real Net Gain in Biodiversity.” Conservation Science and Practice, 2022, e12634.

zu Ermgassen, Sophus OSE, Sally Marsh, Kate Ryland, Edward Church, Richard Marsh, and Joseph W Bull. “Exploring the Ecological Outcomes of Mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain Using Evidence from Early‐adopter Jurisdictions in England.” Conservation Letters, 2021, e12820.

zu Ermgassen, Sophus OSE, Joseph W Bull, and Ben Groom. “UK Biodiversity: Close Gap between Reality and Rhetoric.” Nature 595, no. 7866 (2021): 172–172.

zu Ermgassen, Philine SE, Bryan DeAngelis, Jonathan R Gair, Sophus zu Ermgassen, Ronald Baker, Andre Daniels, Timothy C MacDonald, Kara Meckley, Sean Powers, and Marta Ribera. “Estimating and Applying Fish and Invertebrate Density and Production Enhancement from Seagrass, Salt Marsh Edge, and Oyster Reef Nursery Habitats in the Gulf of Mexico.” Estuaries and Coasts, 2021, 1–16.

Zu Ermgassen, Philine SE, Ronald Baker, Michael W Beck, Kate Dodds, Sophus OSE zu Ermgassen, Debbrota Mallick, Matthew D Taylor, and R Eugene Turner. “Ecosystem Services: Delivering Decision-Making for Salt Marshes.” Estuaries and Coasts, 2021, 1–8.

Torres, Aurora, Mark U Simoni, Jakob K Keiding, Daniel B Müller, Sophus OSE zu Ermgassen, Jianguo Liu, Jochen AG Jaeger, Marten Winter, and Eric F Lambin. “Sustainability of the Global Sand System in the Anthropocene.” One Earth 4, no. 5 (2021): 639–50.

Milner-Gulland, EJ, Prue Addison, William NS Arlidge, Julia Baker, Hollie Booth, Thomas Brooks, Joseph W Bull, Michael J Burgass, Jon Ekstrom, and Sophus OSE zu Ermgassen. “Four Steps for the Earth: Mainstreaming the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.” One Earth 4, no. 1 (2021): 75–87.

Hunter, Sara B, Sophus OSE zu Ermgassen, Harriet Downey, Richard A Griffiths, and Caroline Howe. “Evidence Shortfalls in the Recommendations and Guidance Underpinning Ecological Mitigation for Infrastructure Developments.” Ecological Solutions and Evidence 2, no. 3 (2021): e12089.

zu Ermgassen, Sophus OSE, Martine Maron, Christine M Corlet Walker, Ascelin Gordon, Jeremy S Simmonds, Niels Strange, Morgan Robertson, and Joseph W Bull. “The Hidden Biodiversity Risks of Increasing Flexibility in Biodiversity Offset Trades.” Biological Conservation 252 (2020): 108861.

Everard, Mark, Gary Kass, James Longhurst, Sophus OSE zu Ermgassen, Herbert Girardet, James Stewart-Evans, Jonathan Wentworth, Kevin Austin, Ciara Dwyer, and Robert Fish. “Reconnecting Society with Its Ecological Roots.” Environmental Science & Policy 116 (2020): 8–19.

zu Ermgassen, Sophus OSE, Julia Baker, Richard A Griffiths, Niels Strange, Matthew J Struebig, and Joseph W Bull. “The Ecological Outcomes of Biodiversity Offsets under ‘No Net Loss’ Policies: A Global Review.” Conservation Letters 12, no. 6 (2019): e12664.

zu Ermgassen, Sophus OSE, Pratiwi Utamiputri, Leon Bennun, Stephen Edwards, and Joseph W. Bull. “The Role of ‘No Net Loss’ Policies in Conserving Biodiversity Threatened by the Global Infrastructure Boom.” One Earth 1, no. 3 (2019): 305–15.

Bull, Joseph W, EJ Milner-Gulland, Prue FE Addison, William NS Arlidge, Julia Baker, Thomas M Brooks, Michael J Burgass, et al. “Net Positive Outcomes for Nature.” Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2019, 1–4.

zu Ermgassen, Sophus OSE, Tom McKenna, Jamie Gordon, and Simon Willcock. “Ecosystem Service Responses to Rewilding: First-Order Estimates from 27 Years of Rewilding in the Scottish Highlands.” International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management 14, no. 1 (2018): 165–78.

Torres, Aurora, Néstor Fernández, Sophus zu Ermgassen, Wouter Helmer, Eloy Revilla, Deli Saavedra, Andrea Perino, Anne Mimet, José M Rey-Benayas, and Nuria Selva. “Measuring Rewilding Progress.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 373, no. 1761 (2018).

Wolf, Lukas J, Sophus zu Ermgassen, Andrew Balmford, Mathew White, and Netta Weinstein. “Is Variety the Spice of Life? An Experimental Investigation into the Effects of Species Richness on Self-Reported Mental Well-Being.” PloS One 12, no. 1 (2017): e0170225.