A diverse group of outstretched hands cupping young plants


Oxford centre aims to investigate how to halt and reverse ongoing nature and biodiversity loss

Published: 12 January 2022 



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A new £10 million Oxford-based Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery was announced on January 10th - one of three UK centres established with a hotly-contested Leverhulme Trust 2021 award.

On top of the 10-year Leverhulme funding, the centre, led by Oxford Professor Yadvinder Malhi, will 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 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. Understanding how to implement and finance nature recovery that is scalable, effective and socially just also lies at the heart of the new centre’s purpose.

Professor Malhi, who is Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute within the School of Geography 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 for Research, maintains, '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.'

Professor Anna Vignoles, Director of the Leverhulme Trust, said, ‘Leverhulme Trust Research Centres will...shift the needle on a particular topic. These centres are bold, interdisciplinary and embrace novel approaches that will reshape or establish a field. The [funding] round was extremely competitive and the Trust Board is delighted to announce it will be funding three new centres that are tackling vitally important issues relating to environmental sustainability.’

At the Oxford Centre, Professor Malhi will be working closely with several co-directors including Professor Nathalie Seddon and Professor Michael Obersteiner. The Centre integrates work across several departments and centres throughout the University, including the School of Geography and the Environment, the Environmental Change Institute, the Smith School for Enterprise and the Environment, the Nature-based Solutions Initiative, 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 in case study landscapes, in Oxfordshire, the Scottish Highlands and in close collaboration with a number of international partners in landscapes in Ghana, Malaysia and Peru. As the Centre grows the number of case studies will expand.

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. The Leverhulme Trust's full announcement today can be seen here.

Professor Yadvinder Malhi is Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute within the School of Geography

Professor Nathalie Seddon is Professor of Biodiversity and Director of Oxford’s Nature-based Solutions Initiative

Professor Michael Obersteiner is the Director of the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford.