The Oxford Nature Recovery Symposium
27 Mar

This event has ended.



Worcester College
Walton Street
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The gardens of Worcester College where the Symposium is being held
The gardens of Worcester College

You can read the report from the Oxford Nature Recovery Symposium here.

There has been a recent surge of interest in the science of nature recovery in the UK. This aligns with national and international policy pulls, such as the 2021 Environment Act and Town and Country Planning Act, and the Global Biodiversity Framework agreed in Montreal in December 2022. Spatial prioritisation models, underpinned by data on ecosystem services, biodiversity, social and financial costs, have been used to design Nature Recovery Networks and to explore the trade-offs and synergies between imperatives including nature conservation, food production, housing, energy and infrastructure.

However, there is still much to do if science is to effectively inform decision-making. For example, there could be more harmonisation of different approaches to spatial modelling, and there are still major gaps and uncertainties in the underpinning data. The integration of social and ecological dynamics into models is still limited, and scenario analysis does not take into account key system dynamics and feedbacks, including climate change.

Institutional settings and governance are not well integrated. The translation of scientific understanding into usable frameworks and robust metrics is still relatively limited. Some may argue that there is not enough focus on what the science says is actually necessary for ecologically resilient landscapes; while others may argue that it is important to focus on what is feasible and realistic.

In this symposium, we bring together researchers working on the science that could underpin planning for nature recovery with decision-makers and practitioners working within government, industry and civil society, to discuss how science could best be deployed to support decisions for nature recovery. Our aims are to:

  • Highlight the work being done by researchers to understand the potential impacts of land use decisions on biodiversity, people, and landscape integrity, both empirical and conceptual and using a range of methodological approaches – in the UK and overseas.
  • Explore synergies and gaps in the science currently being carried out by research groups across the country to inform nature recovery in the UK, including Biodiversity Net Gain and the implementation of the Environment Act.
  • Understand different perspectives on the main questions which still need to be addressed in order to support effective land use planning in the UK.

Our symposium is small and highly interactive, based around discussion groups rather than speeches. Our aim is to promote collaboration and to support the generation of new ideas. The insights generated will feed directly into the Natural England Conference on Nature Recovery, to be held at the Royal Geographical Society directly afterwards, on 30th and 31st March 2023.

The symposium is co-hosted by: The Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery, University of Southampton, University of Exeter, UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and University of Kent.

With funding from: UKRI Natural Environment Research Council

Spaces are limited. Please contact Gill Metcalfe to register your interest in attending


10am onwards Arrival
10.30am Session 1 Presenting the current policy and science landscape for nature recovery in the UK and beyond

Presentation 1, What does biodiversity need for recovery?

  • What does the science say about what we need for UK nature recovery? [James Bullock, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology]

Presentation 2, What are the current opportunities for delivering recovery?

  • What is the English policy landscape for nature recovery and how is it changing? [Julia Baker – Mott Macdonald – TBC]

Panel discussion: What are the key issues to address for successful nature recovery, from different perspectives?

  • Chair: E.J. Milner-Gulland
  • Panellists: Including Rebecca Collins (Southampton University), Rosie Hails (National Trust), Max Heaver (Defra) and others TBC
LUNCH 12.30 – 1.30pm
1.30pm Session 2 Breakout group discussion

What are the key research questions that need to be answered from the perspective of policymakers and practitioners, at different scales from local to national?

  • Groups: Policy advisors, NGOs, Agriculture, Industry
  • After 45 minutes, groups will mix to share perspectives across sectors
BREAK 3 – 3.30pm
3.30pm Session 3





Breakout group discussions on methodological approaches

(Part 1: Exchange)

  • What datasets and approaches are being used for fieldwork and modelling of land use change, its governance and its social impacts?
  • How do how do these approaches address the questions highlighted in Session 2?
  • Groups: Spatial modelling, Biodiversity field data, Local people’s wellbeing, Institutions and governance
5pm Group facilitators share key takeaways in plenary
5.45pm Session closes

Symposium Dinner


 Worcester College Hall

6.30, Monday 27th March, 2023



8.30am onwards Arrival
9am Facilitators present on the outcomes of the previous day

  • Followed by a plenary discussion
BREAK 10.30 – 11am
11am Session 4




Breakout group discussions on methodological approaches to nature recovery (Part 2: Integration)

  • How can different aspects of nature recovery research, currently being carried out by different academic teams within the UK and in other countries, be better integrated to support land-use decisions?
  • Mixing up groups from Session 3, working across disciplinary silos to talk about integrated approaches
LUNCH 12.30 – 1.30pm
1.30pm Session 5 Breakout group discussions on evidence gaps and next steps

  • Where are the gaps in evidence and understanding to support nature recovery policy and practice?
  • What are the key areas that require research attention, and how can this research be catalysed?
BREAK 3.30 – 4pm
4pm Session 6


Summary of the takeaways and action points

  • Key messages to take forward to the Natural England Conference

Panel discussion on future collaborative opportunities and next steps

  • Chair: E.J. Milner-Gulland
  • Panellists: Group facilitators