Visionary philanthropy supports radical solutions to environmental challenges

Visionary philanthropy supports radical solutions to environmental challenges

  • Cairngorms from above with low lying clouds. Photo by James-Shooter
    The Scottish Cairngorms. Photo: James-Shooter

Ecosystems that are rich in biodiversity provide clean air, fresh water, food and fuel, and protect us from the worst effects of floods and storms. They inspire us and improve our wellbeing. Yet landscapes across Europe are under threat.

Degraded through intense forestry and agriculture, urbanisation and encroaching transport infrastructure, the resulting habitat loss and fragmentation is endangering and limiting biodiversity. Conventional approaches to conservation will not be enough to meet the ambitious targets set out in national and international policies aimed at reversing biodiversity loss.

Thanks to a visionary £23 million grant from the Arcadia Fund — the charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin — the Endangered Landscapes Programme (ELP) has been set up in partnership with the world-leading Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI) to find radical new approaches to some of the biggest environmental challenges facing the planet.

“We have long worried about the ongoing degradation of Europe’s many unique landscapes and the diminishing diversity and abundance of their wildlife. Now, thanks to the exciting, collaborative and at times multinational projects funded by the Endangered Landscapes Programme, there is new hope and optimism.

Together with the Arcadia team, we are very glad to be the funders of the Endangered Landscapes Programme, and thus to support the many wonderful European NGOs, citizens, and governments that are now expanding, connecting, and restoring Europe’s glorious natural heritage.”

Dr Lisbet Rausing and Professor Peter Baldwin, co-founders of Arcadia Fund

By recognising the current and potential value of our land and sea to society, the ELP is re-thinking ways to recover landscapes and enrich their biodiversity. Not by recreating a time before human impact, but by adopting a positive agenda — working to restore ecological processes, populations and habitats for a more sustainable future for nature and local people.

Initially focusing on eight large-scale areas of biodiversity importance across Europe, the ELP is bringing together academics and practitioners on a variety of conservation projects. Ranging from restoration of the forests of Eastern Europe and the Scottish Highlands, to remote river valleys in Western Iberia and Georgia, from the wetlands and steppe grasslands of the Danube delta to the aquatic margins of the continent along Turkey’s Mediterranean coastline, these projects will illustrate the environmental, social and economic benefits possible when taking a collaborative, landscape-scale approach to conservation.

  • Rewilding Europe. Man in a speedboat looking left through binoculars.
    Rewilding Europe Project. Photo: Magnus Lundgren

The programme’s monitoring framework is gathering information on the environmental, economic and social impact of the projects. Collaboration among CCI’s partners — including the University, is helping to provide tools and technologies that support successful restoration. By providing tangible evidence that a holistic approach is the key to long-term restoration of our environment, the ELP hopes these projects will inspire leaders and decision-makers to deliver the strategies, policies and technical information required for creating sustainable landscapes on a much larger global scale.

In the Ukrainian Danube Delta, Konik horses and water buffalo are now roaming Ermakov Island as part of a rewilding project to restore the area’s mosaic ecosystem, as well as attract tourists to this picturesque landscape. In Romania’s Southern Carpathian Mountains, with the help of local workers — 28,000 fir, spruce, beech and sycamore saplings have been planted over an area of nine hectares of cleared forest in the Făgăraș Mountains, where natural regeneration was almost non-existent. South of Portugal’s Douro River, an important survey detecting the presence of Iberian wolves across nearly 8000 square kilometres of territory is almost complete and in the Scottish Cairngorms ecologists have already transported over 260 delicate tree cuttings to a specially created tree nursery. This genetically diverse library of cuttings and seeds will ensure thousands of trees a year can be propagated and transplanted to high altitude areas where the natural forest cover has been depleted by the pressures of over-grazing and poor soil quality.

  • Konik horses roaming on Ermakov Island running through wetlands
    Konik horses on Ermakov Island. Photo: Andrey-Nekrasov

Thanks to the success of these initial pilot projects, the ELP has recently been able to increase the funding for projects across Europe that are planning new landscape-scale restoration initiatives. They include work on the peatlands of Iceland, the green belt of the Bulgarian-Turkish border and the East of England’s Humber estuary. 

For more information and updates on all of the Endangered Landscape Programme’s restoration projects visit the Endangered Landscapes Programme website.

To find out more about how you can support conservation research at Cambridge, please contact:

Isobel Cohen

Senior Associate Director – School of Technology

+44 (0)1223 330910