There is a global biodiversity crisis driven by mounting pressures, including land degradation and climate change. There are national and international responses to this crisis including:

  • HMG’s 25 Year Environment Plan
  • Natural Capital Committee – Net Environmental Gain Environment Bill
  • UN “Decade on Ecosystem Restoration” 2021-2030

Ecological Restoration is seen as an important tool in halting and reversing biodiversity loss and climate change. One central concept of ecological restoration is that of “indigenous reference systems” with projects aiming to recreate specific target species assemblages. However, using these reference systems to define endpoints for restoration is increasingly difficult for two reasons:

  1. ‘pristine-native’ states are often hard to define, and
  2. climate change is leading to a shifting baseline.

Therefore, there is a need to restore ecosystems that are resilient to future pressures. This project is seeking to investigate ecosystem complexity and those dynamic properties which emerge from functioning systems, such as resilience to perturbation. 

In RestREco we aim to move restoration science forward, by considering complexity, multi-functionality and resilience as fundamental aims for restoration projects, rather than attempting to re-create specific reference ecosystems. 

Photo credit: Sam Rogerson

“Landscape restoration has previously been hampered by an old school approach focused on restoring a landscape to a particular point in time.  However, with the increasing number of challenges our landscapes are facing we need to look forward to what will create the robust, functional and resilient ecosystems of the future.

We therefore need to get to grips with what ‘good’ conservation looks like – what are the ingredients to help us to create functionally intact ecosystems for the future.

The results will help us with our own conservation goals of creating 25,000 hectares of priority habitats by 2025 and the establishment of 20 million trees to expand or to create new wooded landscapes over the next decade.

It’s essential that our decisions are built on strong evidence, so we are delighted that the Trust can play a role in this research.”

Prof. Rosie Hails – Director of Science and Nature at the National Trust

Photo credit: Sam Rogerson

“There is an urgent imperative to restore degraded ecosystems across the Globe to tackle the biodiversity and climate crises. Yet, ecosystem restoration can be a complex, expensive and time-consuming process and it may take decades, or even centuries, to see the desired results.

This project will help unpick and examine the vital elements underpinning successful restoration and provide important measures to assess whether restorations are actually working and we are on the correct pathway to restoration success.”