Trees in a wooded surrounding with light breaking through the trunks



‘Renewing biodiversity through a people-in-nature approach’ (RENEW) is a five-year partnership programme to develop solutions to one of the major environmental challenges for humankind: the renewal of biodiversity.

We are in a biodiversity crisis. A million species of plants and animals are threatened with global extinction, and wildlife populations across much of the planet have been dramatically reduced. The UK is also one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries, with 40% of monitored species having declined in abundance in recent decades. We rely on the biodiversity of the planet’s ecosystem to provide oxygen, pollination of plants, food and much more, making this a crucial time to act.

Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), RENEW is a collaboration between the University of Exeter and the National Trust, and has been co-designed and developed with over 30 partners from a diverse range of sectors. The next five to ten years are critical for making the step change needed to tackle the nature crisis and to alter the current trajectory of biodiversity loss.

We are therefore working with a sense of urgency, to reshape understanding and action on biodiversity renewal across scales, creating knowledge, and influencing national institutions, communities and individuals. The project puts people at the centre of action on biodiversity renewal and will build expertise across different sectors and communities to develop a relational approach to renew our life-support systems. We will trial solutions to renew biodiversity at a landscape scale by co-designing approaches with communities and land managers.

RENEW is focussed on a set of key challenges: how popular support for biodiversity renewal can be harnessed; how populations that are disengaged, disadvantaged, or disconnected from nature can benefit from inclusion in solutions development; how renewal activities can be designed and delivered by diverse sets of land-managers and interest groups; and how biodiversity renewal can most effectively be embedded in finance and business activities.

A graphic showcasing our four core themes, underpinned by three cross-cutting themes - please see below for the text the graphic shows

RENEW consists of four core themes, underpinned by three cross-cutting themes:

Theme 1: Individual Actors – Generating better understanding of individuals’ engagement with nature (‘personalised ecologies’) to improve the effectiveness of methods used to develop public support for large-scale biodiversity renewal. Read more

Theme 2: Community Action – Co-designing fair and inclusive programmes to increase connection between diverse communities and biodiversity renewal activities and their benefits. Read more

Theme 3: Land Managers – Developing a strategic approach to integrated landscape-scale renewal based on real-world opportunities and constraints that are co-designed and delivered with diverse land-managers. Read more

Theme 4: Business & Finance Decision-makers – Developing new tools and standards for embedding biodiversity renewal in finance and business activities. Read more

X1: Environmental Intelligence – Developing a novel capability in ‘environmental intelligence’, using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to integrate big data to support delivery and shape behavioural change strategies to enable biodiversity renewal. Read more

X2: Exeter Centre for Analysis & Synthesis of Environmental Solutions (ExCASES) – Implementing an agile mechanism for identifying solutions to biodiversity renewal in a wider array of contexts, particularly responding to the changing policy landscape. Read more

X3: Collaboration in Practice – Learning from RENEW and prior investments to identify and promote best practice in inter- and transdisciplinary working. Read more

Biodiversity renewal is a complex and whole system problem. To address the critical decline in biodiversity, RENEW’s themes are working to create research outputs that will lead to action on the ground. We recognise that solutions require the creation of a new kind of inclusive and diverse research community, that transcends traditional boundaries between the disciplines. Solutions also need to address the inequalities and lack of diversity found in current renewal practices. Our approach therefore prioritises partnership building, to allow us to combine research with experiment, learning, sharing, outreach and impact, across relevant organisations and wider communities.

6 levels showcasing from our situation to our longer term outcomes - full text below

This approach will lead to long term outcomes, including:

  • Renewed biodiversity
  • More effective engagement with partners and communities
  • Better biodiversity decision making
  • More equitable and inclusive distribution of renewal benefits
  • Better investment decisions and economic prosperity
  • The next generation of interdisciplinary research leaders
  • The UK positioned as an international leader on biodiversity decision making.

The RENEW community includes academics, support staff, and partners from across the environmental sciences, data science, environmental intelligence, social sciences, politics, humanities, business and economics.

RENEW is part of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Changing the Environment Programme. This programme aims to stimulate new collaborations across disciplines to help realise the full potential of the UK’s contribution to environmental challenges as it adapts to climate change, transitions towards net zero emissions and develops a nature-positive future.

University of Exeter logo National Trust logo NERC logo