RENEW
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The Renewing Biodiversity Longitudinal Survey (ReBLS) | Exploring how individual attitudes to nature change over time

The Renewing Biodiversity Longitudinal Survey (ReBLS) | Exploring how individual attitudes to nature change over time

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Published on 22 January 2024

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Research team

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Lewis Elliot – University of Exeter

A profile picture of Co-Investigator Rebecca Lovell

Rebecca Lovell – University of Exeter

A profile picture of Postdoctoral Researcher Jo Garrett

Jo Garrett – University of Exeter

A profile picture of Postdoctoral Researcher Ben Phillips

Ben Phillips – University of Exeter

A profile picture of Prof. Kevin Gaston

Kevin Gaston – University of Exeter

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Fraenze Kibowski – Natural England

A profile image of Anne Lamont

Ruth Lamont – Natural England

Partners

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Aims

The objectives of ReBLS are:

  1. To determine whether environmental attitudes, behaviours, health, and wellbeing are changing, particularly for people with high exposure to natural spaces and biodiversity renewal
  2. To better understand people’s personalised ecologies [1], perceptions of local biodiversity, and pro-biodiversity behaviours

Approach

The RENEW team have worked closely with Natural England to co-develop a new longitudinal survey, launched in 2023, and designed to be asked to the same set of people every year until at least 2026. Previous surveys on this topic have tended to be cross-sectional, meaning they collect data at a single point in time, so do not allow us to track the impacts of environmental change for individuals over time.

The new ReBLS survey co-funded by Natural England, will allow us to investigate how biodiversity renewal affects environmental attitudes, behaviours, health, and wellbeing over time. We will link the survey data to spatial data on green and natural spaces, local biodiversity change and renewal activities to explore their impact on the participants. We aim to understand the impacts of the type of renewal activity and the degree of exposure – for example, this could result from how often people visit nature, how close they live to biodiversity renewal activities, or their subjective experience of nature renewal activities. With our longitudinal design, we’ll be able to explore how this varies over time, between individuals, as well as around the country.

The ReBLS survey will be the UK’s largest longitudinal study to examine how biodiversity renewal activities are experienced, the impacts they have, and how these vary between individuals at scale. The survey is a key component of RENEW’s work on how individuals engage with biodiversity renewal.

An image of an older woman walking in natureAbove: “The ReBLS survey will be the UK’s largest longitudinal study to examine how biodiversity renewal activities are experienced” Images: David Griffiths – Unsplash


Impact

Analysis of Natural England’s People and Nature survey, and its precursor the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE), by researchers at the University of Exeter has been incredibly powerful in revealing the links between nature and our environmental attitudes and wellbeing and has helped inform a variety of policies. However, we were always aware that we needed longer-term information that tracked the experience of individual respondents to answer certain key questions. The RENEW project, and additional funding from Natural England finally gives us this opportunity.

ReBLS will advance our understanding of, if, and how access and engagement with nature and biodiversity renewal work affects individual outcomes, such as pro-environmental attitudes, behaviours and outdoor activity levels, and well-being. The longitudinal design will provide more robust insights than previously available. This data will be relevant to decision-makers in environmental organisations such as Natural England and Defra, helping to inform the assessment of progress against the Government’s Environmental Improvement Plan. It will produce valuable information that will support other RENEW themes, project partners and wider stakeholders.

“This partnership between RENEW and Natural England is hugely beneficial, bringing together research expertise and capacity from the RENEW project and the important needs of environmental organisations like Natural England to better assess the impact of nature recovery work. The ReBLS project is a positive step towards evidence-based and collaborative working for Natural England. We hope that the project will provide essential development and testing of evaluation methods to inform long-term monitoring of key nature renewal initiatives on the ground.”

 

Ruth Lamont, Senior Specialist – Social Science, Natural England

Next steps

Data collection commenced in Autumn 2023 and the first yearly wave of data will be analysed in Autumn 2024. A protocol, detailing the methodology and rationale, for ReBLs will be published in 2024.  

 

[1] An individual’s personalised ecology describes all of their direct sensory interactions with nature. For a more detailed discussion see Gaston et al. (2023) ‘Personalised ecology and the future of biodiversity’, Cambridge Prisms: Extinction, 1.

 


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