Unlocking the power of engagement for nature recovery and nature-based solutions

The ‘Unlocking the power of engagement for nature recovery and nature-based solutions’ webinar took place on 20th February 2024 and was aimed at anyone working in the on-the-ground delivery, design and/or strategy of a broad range of nature recovery and nature-based solutions projects which aim to benefit both people and nature. This includes conservation, restoration, rewilding, urban greening, community gardening, sustainable forestry, regenerative agriculture, and more.

It is aimed at practitioners working on any project which seeks to engage a diversity of stakeholders and relevant parties at different scales including local communities, members of the public, farmers and land managers, non-governmental organisations, charities, businesses, local authorities, and government bodies.

The guide can be viewed here

What is Biodiversity Net Gain?

On February 12th, England’s ambitious new environmental policy, Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) went live. Underpinned by the Environment Act, this policy lays out the mandatory requirement for new developments to provide a 10% net gain in biodiversity, maintained for at least 30 years. For now, this applies to almost all developments, and will become mandatory for small sites from April 2024, and for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) from November 2025.

Natalie Duffus and Sophus zu Ermgassen explain what providing a ‘biodiversity net gain’ means.

A Recipe for Engagement in Nature-based Solutions and Nature Recovery

Engagement is a cornerstone for Nature Recovery (NR) and Nature-based Solutions (NbS), offering a path to delivering multiple, integrated benefits for people, nature and climate. It applies to a range of initiatives including conservation, restoration, rewilding, urban greening, community gardening, sustainable forestry and agriculture. Engagement can involve approaches like consultation, collaboration, partnership working, and co-design: it is ultimately about how people can work together to deliver for nature. The power of engagement lies in its ability to foster more inclusive decisionmaking, build trust and transparency, and empower communities while improving environmental outcomes and enhancing democratic participation.

From Worms to Flowers

Dive into the fascinating world of nature with ‘From Worms to Flowers,’ an educational pack crafted for schools and beyond.

This engaging resource, produced by the Cultural Programme in partnership with The Story Museum, Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery and Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum, forms a part of the ‘Everything is Connected’ season. This initiative unites academics, authors, and artists in a joint effort to envisage a future where all elements of nature are interlinked. The video, featuring insights from experts at the University of Oxford, encourages viewers to explore and appreciate the natural world around them. It demonstrates how every component, from minuscule worms to the most vibrant flowers, contributes significantly to our ecosystem. Designed to educate and inspire, this video is a compelling tool for schools, providing educators and students alike with a deeper understanding of environmental interconnectivity. It also extends its reach beyond the classroom, inviting everyone to partake in this enlightening journey and to contribute to a more sustainable and interconnected future. ‘From Worms to Flowers’ is not just an educational experience; it’s a call to view the world as a harmonious and interconnected system, where each part plays a crucial role in the grand tapestry of life.

A short film has been produced in conjunction with this pack and can be watched here: From Worms to Flowers

From Worms to Flowers, an educational video crafted for children, schools, and parents.

Dive into the fascinating world of nature with ‘From Worms to Flowers,’ an educational video crafted for children, schools, and parents.

This engaging resource, produced by the Cultural Programme in partnership with The Story Museum, Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery and Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum, forms a part of the ‘Everything is Connected’ season. This initiative unites academics, authors, and artists in a joint effort to envisage a future where all elements of nature are interlinked. The video, featuring insights from experts at the University of Oxford, encourages viewers to explore and appreciate the natural world around them. It demonstrates how every component, from minuscule worms to the most vibrant flowers, contributes significantly to our ecosystem. Designed to educate and inspire, this video is a compelling tool for schools, providing educators and students alike with a deeper understanding of environmental interconnectivity. It also extends its reach beyond the classroom, inviting everyone to partake in this enlightening journey and to contribute to a more sustainable and interconnected future. ‘From Worms to Flowers’ is not just an educational experience; it’s a call to view the world as a harmonious and interconnected system, where each part plays a crucial role in the grand tapestry of life.

A teaching guide has been produced in conjunction with this film and can be downloaded here: From Worms to Flowers Learning Pack

A Recipe for Engagement in Nature-based Solutions and Nature Recovery

Engagement is a cornerstone for Nature Recovery (NR) and Nature-based Solutions (NbS), offering a path to delivering multiple, integrated benefits for people, nature and climate. It applies to a range of initiatives including conservation, restoration, rewilding, urban greening, community gardening, sustainable forestry and agriculture. Engagement can involve approaches like consultation, collaboration, partnership working, and co-design: it is ultimately about how people can work together to deliver for nature. The power of engagement lies in its ability to foster more inclusive decisionmaking, build trust and transparency, and empower communities while improving environmental outcomes and enhancing democratic participation.

The first edition of this guidance was funded by the Agile Initiative. The Agile Initiative is supported by the Natural Environment Research Council as part of the Changing the Environment Programme – NERC grant reference number NE/W004976/1

The role of natural capital in the green economy: LCNR response

The House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee launched an inquiry, ‘The role of natural capital in the green economy’, in August 2023.  The Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery submitted a response, written by Dr Sophus zu Ermgassen.

Our submission proposed:

  • An accelerated timetable to agree and implement independent evaluation systems (particularly on-site gains for BNG) to secure high-quality nature recovery, and to prevent problems arising from reliance on self-reported assessments alone,
  • Government support for local authorities to pursue developers responsible for non-compliance. This would include provision long-term support for monitoring and enforcing planning conditions associated with nature recovery,
  • For BNG, revision of the enforcement threshold from the currently unrealistically-high ‘serious harm to a local public amenity’ to a condition that is more closely aligned with nature recovery objectives; and
  • Adoption of the guidance provided in the industry’s best practice guide and best practice Standards (e.g. British Standard 8683: 2021) a condition of planning consent for developments to assist with monitoring and to embed good practice.
Rewilding, Restoration, and the Future of Nature Recovery

James Bullock. UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

There is much excitement about ‘nature recovery’, with many scientists, conservation practitioners and commentators having opinions about how this might be achieved. While many focus on single solutions, such as ecological restoration, rewilding, land sparing, etc, effective recovery will likely involve ‘pick and mix’ approaches that match local needs and national priorities. I will talk about how we can combine rewilding, restoration and agroecological approaches to give pragmatic solutions for recovery. But, we should not ignore massive constraints on nature recovery, such as extinction debt, fragmented landscapes and loss of ecological complexity. In particular, many discussions on recovery do not engage with the fact that rapid climate change will undermine what can be achieved and will be driving ongoing species loss. Indeed, climate change demands that we re-think conservation aims and approaches, and even how we promote nature recovery. I will talk about our concept of ‘Survival Ecology’ as a way of re-conceptualising conservation in a time of anthropogenic climate change.

Biography

James is a conservation ecologist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, with a long history of fundamental and applied research into ecological restoration, rewilding, and agri-ecological management. He is dedicated both to understanding ecological processes in complex, real-world situations, and translating this into solutions for nature recovery that are pragmatic and effective. To do so he also works across disciplines, with, e.g., climate scientists, social scientists and geographers.

The Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery and Biodiversity Network are interested in promoting a wide variety of views and opinions on nature recovery from researchers and practitioners.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this lecture are those of the author alone, they do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery, or its researchers.

Parish Nature Recovery Survey Report

Executive summary

Oxfordshire Treescape Project have been delivering Treescape Opportunity Reports to parish groups since October 2021. Since then the range of resources offered and our ways of working have developed. In April 2023 a survey was sent to the 76 parish groups that had viewed our Opportunity Maps (the majority as pdf Reports, but some in addition or solely as interactive maps on the Land App), the aim of which was to understand what resources for nature recovery are already at parish councils’ disposal; how useful different resources provided by OTP have been; what would most help parishes move forward with nature recovery planning and activities.

Responses were received from representatives of 18 parish groups. Of these, 13 had or were considering a Neighbourhood Plan (NP) within their parish. Nine of these 13 thought it likely or very likely that their NP would support nature recovery in the parish, highlighting that NPs could be a key tool for parishes in nature recovery.

The key theme to emerge was the importance of human connection: the difficulty of engaging with landowners came through strongly, as did the value of volunteers, connections with other groups such as neighbouring parishes and discussions with the Oxfordshire Treescape Project team. Respondents who had good relationships with local landowners described them as among their greatest strengths, but the majority wanted better guidance on how to approach them. Volunteers are highly valued, but respondents felt that volunteers lacked time.

The most used and influential OTP resources were discussions with the team, introductions to relevant people or organisations and the maps, in Opportunity Reports and in the Land App. The maps within the Opportunity Reports were the most used and most useful sections, being used to plan nature recovery and share ideas with parish councils. Some respondents felt that the maps could be improved in terms of accuracy and level of detail.

Nature Seminar Series: A virtual rainforest

Professor Robert Ewers, Imperial College London

Abstract:

Ecologists study living organisms and their interactions with the physical environment, but as ecologists we seldom attempt to understand ecosystems in their entirety. This seminar will present a system-level overview of the ecological processes operating in a Malaysian rainforest, and explain how we are converting this knowledge into a digital twin ecosystem – the virtual rainforest.

Biography:

Rob Ewers is Professor of Ecology at Imperial College London who specialises in biodiversity and whole-system ecology. His vision is to integrate diverse data sources, modelling approaches and interdisciplinary collaborations to develop a holistic understanding of ecological systems. He applies his research to address pressing environmental challenges and to promote sustainable land use practices.

The Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery and Biodiversity Network are interested in promoting a wide variety of views and opinions on nature recovery from researchers and practitioners.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this lecture are those of the author alone, they do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery/Biodiversity Network, or their researchers.