Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI) last week unveiled a programme to restore priority landscapes across Europe. The Endangered Landscapes Programme (ELP) will provide a demonstration of nature’s powers of recovery, and the benefits to habitats, species and people of restoring biodiversity and ecosystem processes to degraded land and seas. 

Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin have united Cambridge in common cause with our closest neighbours, reflecting our best selves, our best interests, and the best hope for future generations.

Professor Stephen J Toope

The programme represents a US$30 million (£23 million) investment from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, in partnership with CCI, a collaboration between nine conservation organisations and the University of Cambridge seeking to transform biodiversity conservation. By catalysing strategic partnerships between leaders in research, education, policy and practice CCI aims to transform the global understanding and conservation of biodiversity and, through this, secure a sustainable future for biodiversity and society.

“We need to stop thinking about protected areas as isolated units in the landscape – we need to approach conservation at a landscape-scale if we are really going to make a difference. The Endangered Landscapes Programme is an ambitious attempt to apply ‘more, bigger, better and joined’, at a landscape-scale, right across Europe,” said Professor Sir John Lawton, Chair of the ELP Oversight and Selection Panel.

The ELP aims to deliver an ambitious vision for the future in which landscapes:

  • Support viable populations of native species with the capacity for landscape-scale movement;
  • Provide space for the natural functioning of ecological processes, so reducing or even eliminating the need for intensive management;
  • Are resilient to short and longer-term change (such as climate fluctuations);
  • Provide sustainable cultural, social and economic benefits to people.

Included in the initial group of ELP-funded projects are plans to return predatory sandbar sharks and Mediterranean monk seals to the seas off the coast of Turkey; create opportunities for key species such as wolves, moose, European bison and greater spotted eagles to move more freely in the vast Prypiat Polesia area of Belarus and Ukraine; establish one of Europe’s largest wilderness areas in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania; and restore Caledonian pinewoods to some of the UK’s most spectacular landscapes in the Scottish Highlands.

“Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin have united Cambridge in common cause with our closest neighbours, reflecting our best selves, our best interests, and the best hope for future generations,” said Professor Stephen J Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.

Alongside this ecological work, the projects include conservation enterprise programmes, based on nature-based businesses that will provide income, employment and cultural benefits for communities and landowners. CCI will support the project recipients and help drive the success of the ELP as a model for landscape-scale restoration throughout Europe by:

  • Supporting participatory planning and development of new and innovative landscape restoration initiatives;
  • Building capacity nationally and locally, by facilitating the transfer of skills and know-how between individuals and institutions;
  • Sharing knowledge, lessons and experience to help deliver strategies, policies and technical information required for creating sustainable landscapes;
  • Demonstrating to decision-makers the environmental, social and economic benefits that are possible from the recovery of nature and ecosystem processes.

The accelerating loss of the natural world represents one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. Building a better future requires a better understanding of nature and its values to people, and the practical interventions required to support economic, social and political transitions towards more equitable and effective stewardship of the planet. It is the ambition of Arcadia and CCI that the ELP will not only be effective in achieving its own aims but that it will inspire others across Europe and the world to consider how they, too, can work to restore and improve landscapes for the future.

“Landscape-scale restoration ecology works. Nature is out there: waiting. Let’s invite her back in. Together we will restore and rewild, and thus protect, Europe – our home, our continent, our love,” said Dr Lisbet Rausing, Founder, Arcadia Fund.

A bold response to the world’s greatest challenge
The University of Cambridge is building on its existing research and launching an ambitious new environment and climate change initiative. Cambridge Zero is not just about developing greener technologies. It will harness the full power of the University’s research and policy expertise, developing solutions that work for our lives, our society and our biosphere.

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