Published on 22 January 2024
Lewis Elliot – University of Exeter
Rebecca Lovell – University of Exeter
Jo Garrett – University of Exeter
Ben Phillips – University of Exeter
Kevin Gaston – University of Exeter
Fraenze Kibowski – Natural England
Ruth Lamont – Natural England
The objectives of ReBLS are:
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.
Above: “The ReBLS survey will be the UK’s largest longitudinal study to examine how biodiversity renewal activities are experienced” Images: David Griffiths – Unsplash
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.
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.
 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.