Partnership’s research will boost UK biodiversity and protect landscapes in critical decade


Researchers at the University of Exeter and the National Trust are joining forces to improve the UK’s biodiversity and manage precious landscapes.

In the face of rapid environmental change and declining biodiversity, the two organisations are driving closer collaboration between their research teams to help transform the ways that landscapes are managed and encourage people to play an active role in looking after the natural world.

Since the University of Exeter and National Trust became strategic partners in May 2021, the number of projects between them has grown significantly, enabling more researchers to connect their expertise and tackle these urgent environmental challenges.

This activity includes major biodiversity projects such as RENEW and Net Zero Plus – funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) respectively – which are developing much-needed, lasting resources to help accelerate biodiversity renewal and the transition to net zero.

The five-year RENEW programme focuses on harnessing popular support for biodiversity, by discovering how different populations can become involved in – and benefit from – renewing the UK’s wildlife. Over the next decade, Net Zero Plus will play a critical role in understanding how trees can support the UK Government’s net zero ambitions, by identifying the best trees to plant and the best places to plant them.

At the heart of the partnership is a commitment to reconsider the way we think about the relationship between natural and cultural heritage landscapes, and use this knowledge to reimagine the way we manage landscapes in the future. The project ‘Landscape Histories for Landscape Futures’, for example, is exploring how an understanding of archaeology and history can guide decisions about nature recovery and restoration, and open up new perspectives for visitors and communities.

Harry Bowell, Director of Land and Science at the National Trust, said: “This partnership is a key route to delivering our ambitions for research at the Trust and developing our role as an Independent Research Organisation. By joining forces with experts at the University of Exeter, we can work towards making a real-world difference for our natural and cultural environments.”

Professor Lisa Roberts, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Exeter, said: “The partnership between the University of Exeter and the National Trust is vital in our efforts to shape the UK’s landscapes for people and nature. By bringing together our shared expertise in biodiversity, conservation and heritage, we are taking important steps to secure a sustainable future for us all.”

She added: “We look forward to continuing our work together to develop new approaches to land management and biodiversity, and to engage the public in the importance of these issues.”