£10 million grant creates Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery

12th January 2022

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A £10 million grant has been awarded to a new Oxford nature recovery centre – one of three UK centres established with a hotly-contested Leverhulme Trust 2021 award.

The University aims to be an international leader in researching and helping to apply nature-based solutions to critical environmental problems.

Professor Patrick Grant, Oxford’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research

Wadham Fellow Professor Nathalie Seddon will be a co-director of the centre, under the leadership of Professor Yadvinder Malhi of the School of Geography and the Environment. 

The Centre will also receive £5 million in co-funding from the University of Oxford, which will support fundamental cross-disciplinary research.

The Oxford centre will undertake research that aims to help halt and reverse the ongoing loss and degradation of nature and its biodiversity – and so is very much in line with the Leverhulme Trust’s invitation to be bold with a bid that could transform understanding of an important topic.

Professor Malhi says: “There has never been more awareness of the urgency of restoring nature in our landscapes, our lives and our economic aspirations. I am incredibly excited for Oxford to have been awarded this Centre, which will harness the expertise and insight available across the University and its local, national and international partners to address this urgent and timely challenge.”

Professor Patrick Grant, Oxford’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research, adds: “The University aims to be an international leader in researching and helping to apply nature-based solutions to critical environmental problems. This generous investment by the Leverhulme Trust, alongside investments from the University’s Strategic Research Fund, the Oxford Martin School and other valued contributors, will allow us to ramp up significantly our efforts at a critical time by establishing a new centre to research innovative ways to deliver nature recovery at scale, delivered with a range of partners from around the world.”

The Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery will bring together several Oxford University groups and departments, including the Nature-based Solutions Initiative, the School of Geography and the Environment, the Environmental Change Institute, the Smith School for Enterprise and the Environment, and the Departments of Biology, Psychiatry, Economics, Anthropology and Statistics.

The Oxford centre will harness state-of-the-art technologies designed to deliver nature recovery at scale and monitor progress towards this recovery, and also implement a range of studies covering the ecological, social, cultural and health and wellbeing studies dimensions of nature recovery. It will use these studies to develop tools for developing scenarios of nature recovery in key landscapes, and work with financial partners to experiment with innovative methods of funding nature recovery. It will also establish flagship long-term nature recovery experiments in the local Oxford landscape.

The work will be grounded case study landscapes, including the Scottish Highlands and will work closely with a number of international partners in landscapes in Ghana, Malaysia and Peru as well as the local landscape in Oxfordshire, with plans to increase the number of case studies as the centre develops.

The other award winners are: Leverhulme Research Centre for the Holobiont at  Imperial College London and Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe at the University of Cambridge.

Funding climate change research

Wadham is grateful to the Waterloo Foundation, founded by alumna Heather Stevens (Experimental Psychology, 1977), which helped fund the research of Wadham Biology fellow, Professor Nathalie Seddon, into nature-based solutions to major societal challenges. The gift helped Nathalie to significantly expand the scope of her Nature-based Solutions Initiative research group, of which she is founding Director, including building teams in Peru and Bangladesh. The support has also enabled her to play a major role in advising businesses and governments on nature-based solutions, including playing a leading role in the recent UN climate change summit, COP26.