skip to primary navigationskip to content

Dr Ben Phalan

Dr Ben Phalan

Research Associate, Cambridge Conservation Initiative

Room 3.01 David Attenborough Building

Research Group

Conservation Science Group:
Research Associate

Research Interests

My research is focused on how to reconcile human demands, especially those for food and other agricultural products, with the conservation of birds and other biodiversity. I am interested in understanding the consequences of different food production trajectories for biodiversity, and in evaluating potential conservation strategies. I address these questions through fieldwork, data syntheses and spatial analysis. Collaborations include work with BirdLife International, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Rainforest Alliance, the International Institute for Sustainability and the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre. I am also interested more widely in ways of identifying and resolving trade-offs between conservation and development; in the ecology, conservation and restoration of tropical forests, especially in Brazil and West Africa; in the environmental and social consequences of biofuel development; in the role of sustainability standards in agriculture; and in defining conservation baselines and objectives.

I am also a Research Associate at Oregon State University in the USA, and an affiliated researcher at the International Institute for Sustainability in Rio de Janeiro.

Key Publications

Phalan, B., Green, R.E., Dicks, L.V., Dotta, G., Feniuk, C., Lamb, A., Strassburg, B.B.N., Williams, D.R., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. and Balmford, A. (2016) How can higher-yield farming help to spare nature? Science 351, 450–451. doi:10.1126/science.aad005

Phalan, B., Green, R. and Balmford, A. (2014) Closing yield gaps: perils and possibilities for biodiversity conservation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 369: 20120285 full PDF

Phalan, B., Bertzky, M., Butchart, S. H. M., Donald, P. F., Scharlemann, J. P. W., Stattersfield, A. J. and Balmford, A. (2013) Crop expansion and conservation priorities in tropical countries. PLoS ONE 8: e51759. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051759.

Phalan, B., Balmford, A., Green, R. E. and Scharlemann, J. P. W. (2011). Minimising the harm to biodiversity of producing more food globally. Food Policy 36: S62-S71. Postprint PDF from Foresight.

Other Publications

For the most up to date list of publications, see my Google Scholar profile.

Tayleur, C., Balmford, A., Buchanan, G.M., Butchart, S.H.M., Ducharme, H., Green, R.E., Milder, J.C., Sanderson, F.J., Thomas, D.H.L., Vickery, J., Phalan, B. In press. Global coverage of agricultural sustainability standards, and their role in conserving biodiversity. Conservation Letters.

Phalan, B., Ripple, W.J. and Smith, P. (2016) Increasing beef production won’t reduce emissions. Global Change Biology. doi:10.1111/gcb.13436

Tayleur, C. and Phalan, B. (2016). Organic farming and deforestation. Nature Plants 2: 16098. doi:10.1038/nplants.2016.98

Lamb, A., Balmford, A., Green, R.E. and Phalan, B. (2016). To what extent could edge effects and habitat fragmentation diminish the potential benefits of land sparing? Biological Conservation 195: 264–271. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2016.01.006

zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J., Phalan, B., Green, R.E. and Balmford, A. (2016). Reducing the land use of EU pork production: where there’s swill, there’s a way. Food Policy 58: 35–48. doi:10.1016/j.foodpol.2015.11.001

Lees, A.C., Balmford, A. and Phalan, B. (2016) Climate mitigation: UK budget cuts erode Paris promises. Nature 529: 25–25. doi:10.1038/529025d

Lamb, A., Green, R., Bateman, I., Broadmeadow, M., Bruce, T., Burney, J., Carey, P., Chadwick, D., Crane, E., Field, R., Goulding, K., Griffiths, H., Hastings, A., Kasoar, T., Kindred, D., Phalan, B., Pickett, J., Smith, P., Wall, E., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J., Balmford, A. (2016) The potential for land sparing to offset greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Nature Climate Change 6: 488–492. doi:10.1038/nclimate2910

Dotta, G., Phalan, B., Silva, T.W., Green, R. and Balmford, A. (2016) Assessing strategies to reconcile agriculture and bird conservation in the temperate grasslands of South America. Conservation Biology 30: 618–627. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12635

Macchi, L., Grau, H.R. and Phalan, B. (2016) Agricultural production and bird conservation in complex landscapes of the dry Chaco. Journal of Land Use Science 11: 188–202. doi: 10.1080/1747423X.2015.1057244

Kamp, J., Urazaliev, R., Balmford, A., Donald, P.F., Green, R.E., Lamb, A.J. and Phalan, B. (2015) Agricultural development and the conservation of avian biodiversity on the Eurasian steppes: a comparison of land-sparing and land-sharing approaches. Journal of Applied Ecology 52: 1578–1587. doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12527

Balmford, A., Green, R. and Phalan, B. (2015) Land for food and land for nature? Daedalus 144, 57–75. doi: 10.1162/DAED_a_00354

Milder, J.C., Arbuthnot, M., Blackman, A., Brooks, S.E., Giovannucci, D., Gross, L., Kennedy, E.T., Komives, K., Lambin, E.F., Lee, A., Meyer, D., Newton, P., Phalan, B., Schroth, G., Semroc, B., Rikxoort, H.V. & Zrust, M. (2015) An agenda for assessing and improving conservation impacts of Sustainability Standards in tropical agriculture. Conservation Biology, 29: 309-320. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12411

Froy, H., Lewis, S., Catry, P., Bishop, C.M., Forster, I.P., Fukuda, A., Higuchi, H., Phalan, B., Xavier, J.C., Nussey, Daniel H. and Phillips, R.A. (2015) Age-related variation in foraging behaviour in the Wandering Albatross at South Georgia: no evidence for senescence. PloS One 10: e0116415. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0116415

Hudson, L.N., Newbold, T., Contu, S., Hill, S.L.L., Lysenko, I., De Palma, A., Phillips, H.R.P. et al. (327 authors) (2014) The PREDICTS Database: A global database of how local terrestrial biodiversity responds to human impacts. Ecology and Evolution 4: 4701-4735. doi:10.1002/ece3.1303.

Laurance, W.F., Clements, G.R., Sloan, S., O’Connell, C.S., Mueller, N.D., Goosem, M., Venter, O., Edwards, D.P., Phalan, B., Balmford, A., Van Der Ree, R. and Arrea I.B. (2014). A global strategy for road building. Nature 513: 229–232. [see also 'News and Views' by Stephen Perz]

Greggor, A.L., Clayton, N.S., Phalan, B. & Thornton, A. (2014). Comparative cognition for conservationists. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 29: 489-495 doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2014.06.004.

Pfeifer, M., Lefebvre, V., Gardner, T.A., Arroyo-Rodriguez, V., Baeten, L., Banks-Leite, C., Barlow, J., Betts, M.G., Brunet, J., Cerezo, A., Cisneros, L.M., Collard, S., D’Cruze, N., da Silva Motta, C., Duguay, S., Eggermont, H., Eigenbrod, F., Hadley, A.S., Hanson, T.R., Hawes, J.E., Heartsill Scalley, T., Klingbeil, B.T., Kolb, A., Kormann, U., Kumar, S., Lachat, T., Lakeman Fraser, P., Lantschner, V., Laurance, W.F., Leal, I.R., Lens, L., Marsh, C.J., Medina-Rangel, G.F., Melles, S., Mezger, D., Oldekop, J.A., Overal, W.L., Owen, C., Peres, C.A., Phalan, B., Pidgeon, A.M., Pilia, O., Possingham, H.P., Possingham, M.L., Raheem, D.C., Ribeiro, D.B., Ribeiro Neto, J.D., Douglas Robinson, W., Robinson, R., Rytwinski, T., Scherber, C., Slade, E.M., Somarriba, E., Stouffer, P.C., Struebig, M.J., Tylianakis, J.M., Tscharntke, T., Tyre, A.J., Urbina Cardona, J.N., Vasconcelos, H.L., Wearn, O., Wells, K., Willig, M.R., Wood, E., Young, R.P., Bradley, A.V. & Ewers, R.M. (2014) BIOFRAG – a New Database for Analyzing BIOdiversity Responses to Forest FRAGmentation. Ecology and Evolution 4: 1524–1537. doi: 10.1002/ece3.1036.

Beresford, A. E., Eshiamwata, G. W., Donald, P. F., Balmford, A., Bertzky, B., Brink, A. B., Fishpool, L. D. C., Mayaux, P., Phalan, B., Simonetti, D. and Buchanan, G. M. (2013) Protection reduces land cover change at sites of conservation importance across Africa. PLoS ONE 8: e65370. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065370.

Hulme, M. F., Vickery, J. A., Green, R. E., Phalan, B., Chamberlain, D. E., Pomeroy, D. E., Nalwanga, D., Mushabe, D., Katebaka, R. and Atkinson, P. W. (2013) Conserving the birds of Uganda’s banana-coffee arc: land sparing and land sharing compared. PLoS ONE 8: e54597. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054597.

Balmford, A., Green, R. E. and Phalan, B. (2012). What conservationists need to know about farming. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences 279: 2714-2724. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.0515.

Phalan, B. (2011). Traffic lights for crop-based biofuels. Biofuels 2: 1-3.

Norris, K., Asase, A., Collen, B., Gockowksi, J., Mason, J., Phalan, B. and Wade, A. (2010). Biodiversity in a forest-agriculture mosaic – The changing face of West African rainforests. Biological Conservation 143: 2341-2350.

Phalan, B. (2010). Mosquitoes: retain an ex situ population for ecological insurance. Nature 466: 1041.

Phalan, B. (2009). The social and environmental impacts of biofuels in Asia: An overview. Applied Energy 86: S21-S29.

Danielsen, F., Beukema, H., Burgess, N. D., Parish, F., Brühl, C., Donald, P. F., Murdiyarso, D., Phalan, B., Reijnders, L., Struebig, M. J. and Fitzherbert, E. B. (2009). Biofuel plantations on forested lands: double jeopardy for biodiversity and climate. Conservation Biology 23: 348-358.

Phalan, B., Fitzherbert, E. B., Rafflegeau, S., Struebig, M. J., and Verwilghen, A. (2009). Conservation in oil-palm landscapes. Conservation Biology 23: 244-245. summary

Fitzherbert, E. B., Struebig, M. J., Morel, A., Danielsen, F., Brühl, C. A., Donald, P. F. and Phalan, B. (2008). How will oil palm expansion affect biodiversity? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 23: 538-545.

Phalan, B. and Nairn, R. (2008). Disturbance to waterbirds in South Dublin Bay. Irish Birds 8: 223-230.

Phalan, B., Rodrigues, A. S. L., Balmford, A., Green, R. E. and Ewers, R. M. (2007). Comment on “Resource-conserving agriculture increases yields in developing countries”. Environmental Science and Technology 41: 1054-1055.

Phalan, B., Phillips, R. A., Silk, J. R. D., Afanasyev, V., Fukuda, A., Fox, J., Catry, P., Higuchi, H. and Croxall, J. P. (2007). Foraging behaviour of four albatross species by night and day. Marine Ecology Progress Series 340: 271-286.

Otley, H., Reid, T., Phillips, R., Wood, A., Phalan, B. and Forster, I. (2007). Origin, age, sex and breeding status of wandering albatrosses (Diomedea exulans), northern (Macronectes halli) and southern giant petrels (Macronectes giganteus) attending demersal longliners in Falkland Islands and Scotia Ridge waters, 2001–2005. Polar Biology 30: 359-368.

Catry, P., Phillips, R. A., Phalan, B. and Croxall, J. P. (2006). Senescence effects in an extremely long-lived bird: the grey-headed albatross Thalassarche chrysostoma. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences 273: 1625-1630.

Poncet, S., Robertson, G., Phillips, R. A., Lawton, K., Phalan, B., Trathan, P. N. and Croxall, J. P. (2006). Status and distribution of wandering, black-browed and grey-headed albatrosses breeding at South Georgia. Polar Biology 29: 772-781.

Catry, P., Phillips, R. A., Phalan, B., Silk, J. R. D. and Croxall, J. P. (2004). Foraging strategies of grey-headed albatrosses Thalassarche chrysostoma: integration of movements, activity and feeding events. Marine Ecology Progress Series 280: 261-273.

Phillips, R. A., Phalan, B. and Forster, I. P. (2004). Diet and long-term changes in population size and productivity of brown skuas Catharacta antarctica lonnbergi at Bird Island, South Georgia. Polar Biology 27(9): 555-561.

Phillips, R. A., Silk, J. R. D., Phalan, B., Catry, P. and Croxall, J. P. (2004). Seasonal sexual segregation in two Thalassarche albatross species: competitive exclusion, reproductive role specialization or foraging niche divergence? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences 271: 1283-1291.

Barnes, D. K. A., Warren, N. L., Webb, K., Phalan, B. and Reid, K. (2004). Polar pedunculate barnacles piggy-back on pycnogona, penguins, pinniped seals and plastics. Marine Ecology Progress Series 284: 305-310.

Phalan, B., Phillips, R. A. and Double, M. C. (2004). A White-capped Albatross, Thalassarche [cauta] steadi, at South Georgia: first confirmed record in the south-western Atlantic. Emu 104: 359-361.

Phillips, R. A., Green, J. A., Phalan, B., Croxall, J. P. and Butler, P. J. (2003). Chick metabolic rate and growth in three species of albatross: a comparative study. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. A. Physiology 135: 185-193.

Robinson-Dean, J. C., Willmott, K. R., Catterall, M. J., Kelly, D. J., Whittington, A., Phalan, B., Marples, N. M. and Boeadi, D. R. S. (2002). A new subspecies of Red-backed Thrush Zoothera erythronota kabaena subsp. nov. (Muscicapidae: Turdidae), from Kabaena island, Indonesia. Forktail 18: 1-10.


Reports, articles, thesis

Phalan, B., Fishpool, L. D. C., Loqueh, E., Grimes, T., Molubah, F. P. and Garbo, M. (2013) Liberian Greenbul expedition 2013: final report. Report to African Bird Club and RSPB. Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Phalan, B. (2013) Biofuel crops: food security must come first. Opinion piece in The Guardian, Thursday 29 August.

Phalan, B. (2013) Nimba Western Area Iron Ore Concentrator Mining Project, Liberia. Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Volume 4, Part 2: Zoological Impact Assessment. Report to URS for ArcelorMittal.

Phalan, B. (2009). Land use, food production, and the future of tropical forest species in Ghana. PhD dissertation, University of Cambridge and St. John’s College.