A system which brings about bigger, better and more joined-up habitats for wildlife, contributing to a locally designed but nationally coherent and resilient network, bringing wildlife and the benefits of a healthy natural world into every part of our lives.
Biodiversity loss is a global problem, and the negative impacts of habitat loss and fragmentation are also significant here in Northern Ireland (Hayhow, et al. 2019). Recent research by the Natural History Museum and the RSPB showed that Northern Ireland Ranks 12th worst in the world when it comes to biodiversity loss. But nature is capable of extraordinary recovery- if we give it the chance.
Imagine therefore, a network of places extending across the country, of areas identified as important for wildlife, and where potential exists to either restore or create habitats, and intentionally linking them up. This is the vision of a Nature Recovery Network (NRN). A well-designed NRN would enable all biodiversity, nutrients and water to provide a range of well-functioning ecosystem services (many of which we depend upon), and enable the natural world to be resilient in the faces of external pressures, such as climate change. A NRN in Northern Ireland would extend into every part of the country, bringing the benefits of nature to everyone.
Given statutory footing, long-term funding and the technical tools and expertise to ensure that decisions affecting nature, and nature-based solutions, were integrated across government policy and decision-making, a National NRN could become a reality and help to contribute towards national and global biodiversity and climate targets.
Want to know more? Watch Sir David Attenborough explain our vision below.
The opportunity now
In a post-Brexit and post-Covid Northern Ireland, where we aspire to build back better, there is great opportunity to address both the biodiversity and climate crises efficiently and effectively through an NRN approach. There are the potential building blocks with DAERA’s Green Growth Strategy, and the £2 million Green Recovery Fund recently announced by the Department of Finance: if used strategically, these can be instrumental in nature’s recovery to the benefit of all. 2021 launched the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the Convention of Biodiversity’s Conference Of the Parties (COP)15 will be taking place in China in October, and the following month, the UK will be hosting the UN Climate Change COP26 in Glasgow. All of this combined provides Northern Ireland with a unique opportunity to showcase how it is putting the long-term wellbeing of its environment and people into the forefront of its future. We currently have an incredible opportunity to influence our national policy for the future, the post-CAP Agri-Environment Support, the NI Climate Change Bill and the Environment and Nature Restoration Private Member’s Bill to just name a few. At the heart of these, we need to strive for a system where our environmental governance system would be bound by statutory targets and a duty to act. NRNs could play a key role in facilitating this, helping to maximise benefits to both wildlife and people, by acting as a mechanism to integrate nature and nature-based solutions effectively across government and policy.
Since September 2020, with generous funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund, Ulster Wildlife has been working in partnership with RSPB NI, National Trust and Woodland Trust on a project to build capacity to deliver NRNs in Northern Ireland. With assistance from key stakeholders, the project will be producing the first set of National NRN maps for Northern Ireland and advocating to the central and local government and other stakeholders for the adoption of this landscape-scale approach towards looking after our environment, where these maps can strategically direct investment where it will make the biggest impact for wildlife and humans alike. As a part of our role in the project, Ulster Wildlife is hosting the project coordinator, who, with the support from key staff from the four partner organisations will be leading on the delivery of the work plan, including
- the production of Northern Ireland’s first set of Nature Recovery Network maps
- the production of a set case studies in order to portray how the Nature Recovery Network- approach could be integrated into policy and practice
- advocating for the adoption of the concept into policy and practice
- facilitating knowledge-sharing and engagement around NRN, leading to an upskilled and more resilient sector in the long term
- providing recommendations for work around NRN going forward
Tune into the Northern Ireland’s first ever Nature Recovery Networks event!
In April 2021 a three-part Northern Ireland NRN webinar-series was held virtually over zoom.
This webinar series introduced Northern Ireland stakeholders to the concepts of Nature Recovery- and Ecological Networks, and highlighted work that has taken place elsewhere, to provide ideas for how NRNs could work in Northern Ireland.
During these half-day sessions, we heard from a range of guest speakers from different parts of the UK, Ireland and Europe who shared their expertise, which was then be followed by a discussion session.
Watch the recordings of these sessions here:
Contact us to find out more
For now the work we are conducting does not involve any form of advisory service or delivery of practical work on the ground. We do hope that, as an output of the project currently underway, we will develop proposals and advice for future action, thus moving from planning to delivery.
If you have any questions, you can email Nature Recovery Networks Project Coordinator Nina Schonberg or on mobile: 07485329723