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University of Exeter and The National Trust

National Trust

National Trust

Relationship Manager: Chloe Bines

The University of Exeter and the National Trust launched their five-year strategic partnership in May 2021, to focus on protecting landscapes so that people and nature can thrive. 

In the context of rapid environmental change, declining biodiversity, and widespread political and economic uncertainty, the partnership focuses on problems that cannot be solved with expertise from practitioners or academics alone. By driving collaboration between the two organisations, our partnership aims to help transform the ways that landscapes are managed, boost biodiversity, and encourage people to play an active role in looking after the natural world.

The collaboration focuses on three main themes:

1. Managing changing landscapes - enhancing landscape decision-making; preparing for transformative change and biodiversity recovery; exploring new approaches to managing natural and heritage landscapes, such as adaptive release and techniques to manage healthy farms alongside healthy wildlife. 

2. Delivering multiple benefits from land reconnecting cultural and natural landscapes; building social capital needed to reverse biodiversity declines and adapt to climate change; developing skills for ecological and social citizenship.

3. Reconnecting people with landscapes - engaging people with nature for health and wellbeing; empowering people to participate in landscape choices; changing perceptions of landscape and exploring values linked to land use and management. 

Our Projects


RENEW is a five-year partnership programme to develop solutions to one of the major environmental challenges for humankind: the renewal of biodiversity. The programme, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), is a collaboration between the University of Exeter and the National Trust, co-designed and developed with 33 partners from a diverse range of sectors.

RENEW focuses on how popular support for biodiversity renewal can be harnessed; how populations that are disengaged, disadvantaged, or disconnected from nature can benefit from inclusion in solutions development; how renewal activities can be designed and delivered by diverse sets of land-managers and interest groups; and how biodiversity renewal can most effectively be embedded in finance and business activities.

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Net Zero Plus

The NetZeroPlus project plays a critical role in supporting the UK Government's commitment to achieving ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Of the Greenhouse Gas Removal options available, increasing the carbon stored in the UK’s treescapes has arguably the greatest potential, the lowest cost, and can be started immediately. NetZeroPlus examines all aspects of forestry to identify both: The Right Tree in the Right Place and The Right Places for the Right Trees.

The project, which is led by Professor Ian Bateman from the University of Exeter Business School and closely involves researchers at the National Trust, is one of five interdisciplinary projects that will receive a total of £31.5m from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

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Landscape Futures and the Challenge of Change

The University of Exeter and the National Trust, working with Historic England and University College London, were awarded a UKRI Landscape Decisions programme grant to respond to the challenge that accelerated climate and environmental change poses for the natural and cultural heritage sector. The Landscape Futures and the Challenge of Change project ran from February 2020 - January 2022 and was an AHRC Impact and Engagement Follow-on from the Heritage Futures project.

During the two-year project, Professor Caitlin DeSilvey (University of Exeter), Professor Rosemary Hails and Dr Ingrid Samuel (both National Trust) worked with a team of researchers to consolidate knowledge about the (actual and perceived) barriers to managing landscape change, transformation and decline in the UK.

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Tourism and Climate Change

The University of Exeter, in partnership with the National Trust and Historic Environment Scotland, and with the support of the Met Office, were granted funding for a 12-month embedded researcher as part of the UK Climate Resilience programme, starting in January 2022.

Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the project considered how may climate change affect visitor patterns and behaviours at attractions, and the likely consequences for the future visitor economy to 2050 and beyond.

Landscape Histories for Landscape Futures

Running from July 2022 to March 2023, Landscape Histories for Landscape Futures is exploring how a deeper understanding of landscape history can inform and activate new decision-making on landscape management into the future, so that our goals for historic environment, nature recovery and carbon sequestration are all met. 

This research is being conducted by Professor Caitlin DeSilvey (University of Exeter), Dr Ingrid Samuel (National Trust) and Rose Ferraby (University of Exeter), and will focus on how heritage managers can be empowered to use knowledge about the historic environment in their planning and decision-making.  

Understanding the Challenges Faced by Tenant Farmers 

Around half of National Trust land is managed by tenant farmers and 30% is managed by grazing licences or is common land. The Trust is committed to supporting farmers in their vital role in food production and protecting and enhancing the soil, water and wildlife they care for.

This study aims to better understand the challenges faced by farmers, and how the Trust can best support them. It is being delivered by Professor Matt Lobley (University of Exeter) and Professor Matthew Heard (National Trust).