CIE Seminar Series – 2019: Predicting global hotspots of nature-land use conflict

SPEAKER: Dr Payal Bal, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Quantitative and Applied Ecology Group, University of Melbourne

DATE: Friday, 23rd August 2019

TIME: 1:30pm

LOCATION: Melbourne Campus at Burwood –Burwood Corporate Centre

Seminar will also be video linked to the following campuses: Geelong Campus at Waurn Ponds – room ka4.207 and Warrnambool Campus, Room J2.19 (Fishbowl)


Economic policy can have profound effects on the environment through its pervasive influence on human consumption and land use. Land-use change, as driven by consumption, is the number one driver of loss of species habitat. Although studies have broadly characterised the links between global consumption, land use and biodiversity, current analyses cannot identify the location and severity of the impacts of human consumption on biodiversity. There exists a unique opportunity to develop and apply predictive methods for identifying regions of impending conflict between nature and land use. I work with colleagues at the University of Melbourne (Brendan Wintle, Tom Kompas, Simon Kapitza, Matthew Cantele and other researchers) to develop a global, coupled economic, land-use and ecological modelling framework to evaluate the influence of economic decisions (e.g. trade agreements) on production and consumption patterns (i.e., commodity supply and demand) and subsequently on land-use and the displacement of biodiversity.

Our prototype approach downscales global trade patterns to local (<1ha) biodiversity impacts via a land-use change model at a national scale. I am currently working on extending this approach to a global scale, expanding on the number of commodities, economic regions and species considered within the assessment. Our aim is to provide high-resolution spatial models of species’ ranges (and range changes) for over 100,000 species on a worldwide scale, under future scenarios of economic and environmental change.


I work in the Quantitative and Applied Ecology Group at the University of Melbourne and am currently involved in a Discovery project to assess the global impacts of trade on biodiversity. During my doctoral research at the University of Queensland, I have applied decision-analysis and structured decision-making approaches to evaluate biodiversity indicators and to monitoring strategies for improving conservation decisions. I have previously worked on modelling spatial vegetation patterns to develop indicators of ecosystem collapse; on developing methods of abundance estimation from biodiversity survey data; and on studying the man-animal conflict in India.

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