RENEW
RENEW's PhD cohort walking along the river

Research Publications

Research Publications

Access a range of published articles and resources from RENEW themes such as biodiversity renewal missions, personalised ecology and collaboration in practice. We’ll be updating this section as RENEW evolves, please check back for updates.


 

Summary

People have unique sets of direct sensory interactions with wild species, which change through their days, weeks, seasons, and lifetimes. Despite having important influences on their health and well-being and their attitudes towards nature, these personalized ecologies remain surprisingly little studied and are poorly understood. However, much can be inferred about personalized ecologies by considering them from first principles (largely macroecological), alongside insights from research into the design and effectiveness of biodiversity monitoring programmes, knowledge of how animals respond to people, and studies of human biology and demography. Here I first review how three major sets of drivers, opportunity, capability and motivation, shape people’s personalized ecologies. Second, I then explore the implications of these mechanisms for how more passively and more actively practical improvements can be made in people’s personalized ecologies. Particularly in light of the declines in the richness of these ecologies that are being experienced in much of the world (the so-called ‘extinction of experience’), and the significant consequences, marked improvement in many people’s interactions and experiences with nature may be key to the future of biodiversity.

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Summary

Addressing the global environmental problems facing our planet requires a significant shift in human behaviour. Personal experiences with nature are suggested to be a key driver of pro-environmental behaviour. However, the validity of this idea is uncertain. Using a systematic literature review and meta-analysis, we show that direct experiences of nature are positively associated with a wide range of positive actions towards the natural environment, including recycling, energy conservation, green purchasing, and participating in conservation volunteering. Nature experiences were more strongly linked to ‘pro-biodiversity’ behaviours (actions that specifically focussed on wildlife and habitat conservation) than other general pro-environmental behaviours, although the difference was statistically marginal. There was no difference in the strength of the association with proenvironmental behaviour between nature experiences during childhood and those during other times in life. Adjustment for publication bias did not produce significantly different results. While highlighting a need for experimental or longitudinal study designs in this area, our results suggest that enhancing people’s engagement with nature can be a valuable strategy for promoting behaviour change that helps address global environmental issues.

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Summary

The future of biodiversity lies not just in the strategies and mechanisms by which ecosystems and species are practically best protected from anthropogenic pressures. It lies also, and perhaps foremost, in the many billions of decisions that people make that, intentionally or otherwise, shape their impact on nature and
the conservation policies and interventions that are implemented. Personalised ecology – the set of direct sensory interactions that each of us has with nature – is one important consideration in understanding the decisions that people make. Indeed, it has long been argued that people’s personalised ecologies have powerful implications, as captured in such concepts as biophilia, extinction of experience, and shifting baselines. In this paper we briefly review the connections between personalised ecology and the future of biodiversity, and the ways in which personalised ecologies might usefully be enhanced to improve that future.

Gaston, K.J., Phillips, B.B. & Soga, M. 2023. Personalised ecology and the future of biodiversity. Cambridge Prisms: Extinction, in press.

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Summary

The RENEW project has its foundations in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaboration, that is, research reaching across disciplines and beyond academia. This document aims to facilitate consideration of, and guide, collaborative practices within and around RENEW. It will act as a ‘living’ resource for RENEW members and partners to use and feed into; this is the first of several planned versions that the Collaboration in Practice team will produce through the project lifetime. In addition to internal versions, at a later stage, drawing on collective learning in RENEW, we will develop this into a publicly available manifesto for collaborative practice, building on other manifestos about wildlife conservation, and interdisciplinarity across natural and social sciences. This first iteration provides several prompts and working recommendations, based on our review of the academic literature and ‘best practice’ reports on interdisciplinarity, co-production, and other modes of research that bring together people from diverse disciplines and sectors. It is a starting point, so please contact the authors – the Collaboration in Practice (X3) team of RENEW (https://renewbiodiversity.org.uk/) if you have feedback, additions, amendments, or related ideas.

Cassidy, A., Kershaw, E. H., & Molyneux-Hodgson, S. (2023). A ‘living’ guide to fostering collaborative practices in RENEW. Iteration 1.0 (March 2023). University of Exeter. DOI: https://doi.org/10.17613/f3qa-jp96

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Summary

People can express irrational fears and disgust responses towards certain wild organisms. This so-called ‘biophobia’ can be useful and indeed necessary in some circumstances. Biophobia can, however, also lead to excessive distress and anxiety which, in turn, can result in people avoiding interactions with nature. Here, we highlight concern that this reduction in interactions with nature might lead to progressive increases in biophobia, entrenching it more in individuals and across society. We propose the ‘vicious cycle of biophobia’, a concept that encapsulates how excessive aversion towards nature might emerge and grow in society. The vicious cycle of biophobia risks accelerating the extinction of experience, leading to  long-term adverse consequences for the conservation of biodiversity.

Soga, M., Gaston, K.J., Fukano, Y. and Evans, M.J. (2023). The vicious cycle of biophobia. Trends in Ecology & Evolution. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2022.12.012.

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Summary

The connection that individuals have with nature impacts their well-being and their support for pro-nature policies. While it is generally believed that the connection between humans and nature is decreasing, the extent of this trend is uncertain. Here, we present a global analysis of the temporal changes in people’s psychological and physical connections to nature. Using a systematic review protocol, we identified 71 articles consisting of 100 case studies. Most of these studies used cross-sectional, rather than longitudinal, approaches, which examine the connection to nature among people of different ages. The literature we reviewed indicates that there has been a decline in human connection to nature over time. However, the magnitude of changes in nature connection varied by geographic and socio-economic settings, with some studies showing an increasing trend. These findings suggest that there are opportunities to limit and reverse ongoing disconnection of humans from nature where it does occur.

Soga, M. and Gaston, K.J. (2023). Global synthesis reveals heterogeneous changes in connection of humans to nature. One Earth, 6(2), pp.131–138. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oneear.2023.01.007.

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Summary

Human activities are damaging the world’s ecosystems, posing a serious threat to life on Earth, including humanity. To address this situation, widespread and sig-nificant changes in human behaviour are necessary. Direct experiences of nature can encourage individuals to adopt positive actions towards biodiversity (here-after pro-biodiversity behaviour), but this relationship has not been well studied. Using a large sample of Japanese adults, we demonstrate that both recent and childhood frequencies of nature experiences are associated with an increased likelihood of exhibiting pro-biodiversity behaviours. This association was found to be consistent across various forms of behaviour, including purchasing eco-friendly products, reducing pesticide use in domestic gardens, and donating to conservation organizations. However, our research also reveals a declining trend of childhood experiences of nature in Japan, resulting in an “extinction of experience.” Our results suggest that enhancing people’s personal experiences with nature could help promote desired behavioural change to halt biodiversity loss

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CBI Foreword

In the past decade, a seismic shift has taken place in the global political economy. Protecting our planet has become a key priority for governments and businesses across every country and, while it can be argued that this step change has come much too late, it is nonetheless encouraging to see this issue is increasingly central to business strategy. So far, this has primarily involved a focus on decarbonisation in line with the Paris Agreement and the 2030 net zero targets for the UK, however, we continue to learn more and more about the other ways we need to protect our planet…

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Summary

The human health benefits of direct sensory interactions with nature (hereafter direct human–nature interactions) are increasingly recognised. However, these interactions can also have various negative health and well-being impacts on people, some of which may be severe. Compared to positive ones, there have been relatively little investigation of such negative direct human–nature interactions beyond the medical literature, and what has been done is widely scattered across disciplines…

Soga, M. and Gaston, K.J. (2022). The dark side of nature experience: Typology, dynamics and implications of negative sensory interactions with nature. People and Nature.

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