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Introduction - The ecology consultancy market has been booming in recent years and is predicted to out perform other environmental consultancy sectors during the current economic situation. In the UK alone, there are now around 2250 ecologists employed in the sector (based on Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management membership and their membership survey), and it has an estimated value of £110m to £120m. Figures for the size of the market elsewhere are harder to come by, but we estimate that the global ecology consultancy market could be between £1bn and £3bn.
The primary source of work for ecological consultants is from development and construction projects. The ecologist can be involved in all stages of development projects from initial design, through the planning application process to work on the construction site and post-project monitoring. Generally, the purpose of the work is to ensure compliance with legislation and planning policy, and increasingly to contribute to a better development design, which incorporates features which are of potential benefit for biodiversity.
However, legislation and planning policy are the main drivers for the work, with every new development needing to comply with a range of directives, Acts or planning statements. The legislation has been strengthened considerably over the last 30 years, and awareness of and compliance with the legislation has never been higher than now. Without this regulatory framework, there is no doubt that consideration of environmental impacts would be far weaker than it currently is.
It is worth noting that there is a key difference between the approach of the ecological consultant and that of the ecological researcher. In consultancy, we have to make judgements and provide advice which is based on the best available evidence, combined with our collective experience and professional opinion. The available evidence may not be especially good, potentially leading to over-simplification of ecological systems and responses, and a good deal of uncertainty. In ecological research, the evidence needs to be compelling before conclusions are reached and research is published.
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