Ecology Research Theme
Testing the effectiveness of different ecological approaches for nature recovery to support biodiversity and the delivery of ecosystem services such as climate change mitigation and adaptation.
We will examine and quantify the ecosystem health, climate benefits and challenges of different approaches to nature recovery, by directly targeted data collection, synthesis of data collected by partners and assimilation of the wider literature and evidence base.
Our first approach will be experimental, because there is a need for well-designed long-term studies with consistent baselines and monitoring and evaluation of nature recovery pathways. The 10-year funding for the Centre uniquely enables long-term ecological, social and financial experiments to be initiated, monitored and rigorously evaluated for their effectiveness in delivering successful outcomes.
We will provide scientific support for a range of studies in our Case Study landscapes, working with local partners on their lands. Most locally, we will establish a flagship set of robustly designed long-term nature recovery experiments on University of Oxford-owned lands. Experiments will include different strategies for biodiversity-supportive agriculture, for assisted and natural regeneration of forests and other ecosystems, and the effects of animal-mediated rewilding.
Our second approach will harness cutting-edge approaches in AI to develop innovative methods for the compilation and continuous updating of a global open-access evidence base of the effectiveness and benefits of nature recovery strategies.
A key challenge is the rapid rate of increase of data and evidence: a huge and rapidly growing literature is scattered across disciplines in the physical, natural, and social sciences in thousands of publications and is thus not easily accessible to decision-makers. To address this challenge, we will utilise state-of-the art machine learning/natural language processing technologies to expedite and deepen our learning from systematic reviews of existing literature on nature recovery.
We will examine how the key findings of our robust studies can be integrated within development plans at local, national and global scales and contribute towards goals to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Read more about our use of novel technologies now.
Evenlode Landscape Recovery
Lead by the North East Cotswold Farming Cluster and funded by DEFRA as apart of the Environmental Land Management schemes, the project aims to expedite the transition to a financially and environmentally sustainable farming system through nature recovery efforts.
- View project
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.
Our maps are published by Oxfordshire County Council in an accessible, interactive story format that allows you to investigate treescape opportunities across Oxfordshire
The treescapes guide offers a summary explanation of the treescapes included in the maps and the benefits they bring, together with some case studies of famers and landowners who have put them into action and further resources. It also includes a brief explanation of the mapping rules we have adopted.