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Geography and Environmental Science
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Dr Robert A Holland BSc, MRes, PhD

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Robert A Holland
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My current work focuses on the energy sector and the implications of future structural changes to achieve net zero on natural capital.

I have pioneered the use of spatially explicit consumption-based accounting to examine the consequences of global energy policy for water resources and biodiversity. I am lead author of two papers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that utilise this technique. My research has been published in leading topic specific journals (i.e. Applied Energy; Energy Policy) challenging the focus of global energy policy on decarbonisation. I have coordinated opinion papers, policy briefings and book chapters with a broad range of stakeholders within the energy and environment community to promote the need to consider broader environmental implications of routes to net zero.

Research interests

My research examines the link between human economic activity and the implications for biodiversity, natural capital and ecosystem services. I am currently a work package lead within the Energy, Environment and Landscapes theme of the UK Energy Research Centre where I will be examining techniques for improving the spatial representation of environmental data within energy system models. I am the Topic Group Representative and member of the core management group of the Supergen Bioenergy hub. I am a member of an international team formed through the World University Network conducting a “Global comparative assessment of the role of oceans in a sustainable future”. Most recently I was awarded funding as a Principal Investigator on a project funded by the Supergen Bioenergy Hub to examine “Global land use implications in a demand-driven food and decarbonised energy system”.

I have published widely in high-ranking journals including as lead author in two papers in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences examining the link between global energy production, water resources and biodiversity. Other significant outputs include articles in Conservation Letters, Global Ecology and Biogeography and Conservation Biology. My research has achieved global impact being featured in reports by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change, the IPCC and IPBES. I was awarded the Dean’s prize for outstanding contribution to research in 2015/16.

As a conservation scientist I have a track record of scientific leadership that has influenced policy at the highest level. At IUCN, I led the scientific analysis of the first comprehensive assessment of African freshwater biodiversity. For this work myself and colleagues received the IUCN Species Survival Commission Chair’s Citation of Excellence in recognition of an outstanding contribution to international conservation. I was lead on the development of a global standard for the identification of Freshwater Key Biodiversity Areas as critical areas for conservation investment, coordinating work across multiple international conservation bodies to agree criteria. I was then a member of the World Commission on Protected Areas and Species Survival Commission Joint Task Force on Biodiversity and Protected Areas.  As part of this group we established a unified standard for the identification of Key Biodiversity Areas across taxonomic groups. This was adopted by 200 governments and 1000+ NGOs as resolution 044 “Identifying Key Biodiversity Areas for safeguarding biodiversity” at IUCN congress in 2016. It is central to global initiatives such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

PhD Supervision

Tim Sykes

Jennifer Ball: Measuring and optimising multiple ecosystem services provided by chalk systems. Vitacress Foundation, Environment Agency & University of Southampton.

Gemma Delafield

Caspar Donninson: Going carbon negative: Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Sequestration (BECCS) -impacts on UK and global natural capital. NERC.

Research project(s)

Data and Output resolution when modelling at spatial scale


Research group

Environmental Change and Sustainability (ECaS)

Affiliate research groups

Institute for Life Sciences (IfLS), Landscape Dynamics and Ecology (LDE)

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Book Chapters

  • Papathanasopoulou, E., Holland, R., Dockerty, T., Scott, K., Wegg, T., Beaumont, N., Taylor, G., Sünnenberg, G., Lovett, A., Smith, P., & Austen, M. (2015). Energy and ecosystem service impacts. In P. Ekins, M. Bradshaw, & J. Watson (Eds.), Global Energy. Issues, Potentials, and Policy Implications Oxford University Press.
  • Holland, R., Scott, K., Wegg, T., Beaumont, N., Papathanasopoulou, E., & Smith, P. (2015). Energy production and ecosystem services. In P. Ekins, M. Bradshaw, & J. Watson (Eds.), Global Energy. Issues, Potential and Policy Implications (pp. 112-125). Oxford University Press.



2017–present: Supergen Bioenergy Hub Core Management Group with responsibility for ecosystems and environment.
2017–present: Water Energy Food: WEFWEBS Advisory Board member representing the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).

Dr Robert A Holland
Building 44 University of Southampton University Road Southampton SO17 1BJ

Room Number : 85/6041

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