Landscape Ecology Programme: Nature Unlocked at Wakehurst
Connecting Wakehurst’s landscape, science, and visitors to research the value of nature for people, agriculture, and the environment.
The UK is facing three major environmental threats: biodiversity loss, climate change and land use change.
These threats are connected and inextricably linked to our society and economy.
To adapt to and mitigate these threats, we need nature-based solutions; interventions in which humans act as ecological stewards of nature, recognising and valuing its benefits and working with nature to address social and environmental challenges (IUCN, 2009).
To implement effective and long-term nature-based solutions, they must integrate comprehensive accounts of natural capital and associated ecosystem services across landscapes and involve local stakeholders, especially local communities.
National frameworks have been developed to assess natural capital, such as the Ecosystem Service Framework and the Habitat Classification Framework.
The UK government is also currently transitioning from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy to the Environmental Land Management scheme which, from 2024, will include paying landowners for maintaining ecosystem services and biodiversity.
As part of the UK government’s Environment Bill, there will be a mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) requirement, with the development of biodiversity metrics and standards for land management that benefits with wildlife and people in the long-term.
However, these frameworks and policies are currently undermined by a lack of data, infeasibility for large-scale systematic monitoring and need for additional biodiversity and natural capital metrics to define ‘good’ land management and nature-based solutions across variable landscape types.
There also needs to be an integration of data from local communities on the cultural and social benefits of being in nature, helping to influence priority areas for the management of ecosystem services and protection of landscapes.
Based at Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden, the Landscape Ecology Programme (Nature Unlocked) will address these needs.
The programme has been jointly developed between Wakehurst and Kew Science’s Ecosystem Stewardship Priority and it will connect Wakehurst’s three greatest assets: a multi-habitat and biodiverse landscape with leading best practice in land management and horticulture; Kew Science expertise and strong partnerships; and Wakehurst’s visitors and long-standing public programmes to research the value of nature for people and the environment.
Aims and expected outcomes
The Landscape Ecology Programme aims to research, engage with, and share the values of UK biodiversity.
The programme has five, connected deliverables:
- Deliver high-quality, innovative science to measure, define and monitor natural capital across Wakehurst and varied UK landscapes
- Inspire engagement, participation and learning through citizen science and public programmes, enhancing an understanding of and connection to nature
- Train the next generation through interdisciplinary higher education programmes and internships focused on valuing and protecting UK biodiversity
- Share replicable protocols and best practice in land management for nature-based solutions and enhancing biodiversity across varied land uses and stakeholders
- Inform and influence policy and practice on nature-based solutions across UK, facilitating long term, effective adaptation and mitigation to climate and biodiversity crises
The programme runs initially for three years and initial research themes are:
- Climate adaptation and mitigation - carbon storage, gas flux and biodiversity including mycological diversity
- Invertebrates in the landscape - including pollinator traits and capacity
- Water and landscape function - including hydrological services for climate adaptation, mitigation and resilience
- Nature connectedness - people's connection to and values of biodiverse landscapes
The programme will be an exemplar of the role of collaborative, interdisciplinary research on nature-based solutions across varied UK landscapes.
Wakehurst’s landscape will become a ‘living laboratory’ to scientifically measure nature’s benefits for people and the environment over the long term.
There will be increased engagement with the public and more people visiting Wakehurst as a place to engage with nature and science and research will influence UK policy and practice on how to best manage land and use nature to solve environmental and social challenges.
Landscape, Horticulture & Research (Wakehurst)
Our scientists are working with Directorates across Kew to help share research and protocols in natural capital valuation, engage diverse audiences, and influence policy and practice on UK nature-based solutions.
- University of Sussex
- Royal Holloway University London
- Imperial College London
- HM Treasury
- Sky Zero
- Ground Control
- Mount Anvil & Peabody
- Players of People’s Postcode Lottery
Suz, L.M., Bode, J., Byrne, A., van der Linde, S. & Bidartondo, M. (2022)
Nutrients, Carbon, Mycorrhizas and Tipping Points in Forests.
Royal Forestry Society 116: 36 - 43.