Nature-Based Economies

SeaGrown kelp harvesting
Sustainable kelp harvesting is just one example of the type of innovative new enterprises we expect to see in a Nature-Based Economy © SeaGrown

By putting nature at the heart of a green recovery, we can drive locally-led economic regeneration in a way that is good for nature, climate and people.

What’s the issue?

One of the greatest challenges of the 21st century is to sustain human wellbeing without destroying our natural environment. We need to create prosperity today without compromising the prosperity of future generations. For powerful social and environmental reasons, we need to catalyse a transition from extractive to regenerative economies. Rewilding Britain believes that we can do so by putting nature at the heart of a green economic recovery.

Eco tourism treehouse canopy and stars
Wild sites can provide unique locations for special stays – in turn providing economic benefits to the local community © Canopy & Stars

Although a lot of talk and effort has been focused on using clean energy and manufacturing to bring jobs to our industrial heartlands in pursuit of a green recovery, rural and coastal communities are in danger of being left out. By nurturing place-based jobs and promoting small and medium enterprises built on regenerative principles, we can ensure that these communities benefit from wider green investment.

What’s Rewilding Britain’s solution?

We believe that a new and thriving ecosystem of employment can be built around the restoration and rewilding of nature. We propose the creation of localised Nature-Based Economies across 30% of Britain by 2030. We would like to see each Nature-Based Economy supporting a diversified, resilient and just economic transition alongside the large-scale restoration and rewilding of nature. 

Nature-Based Economies should incorporate:

  • Core rewilding areas (at least 5% of Britain) which focus on restoring and reinstating as wide a range of natural processes, habitats and missing species as possible to form mosaics of native forest, peatlands, heaths, species-rich grasslands, wetlands, saltmarshes, kelp beds, seagrass and living reefs. There should be minimal or no human impact or extraction of resources.
  • Regenerative areas (at least 25% of Britain) which support a diverse range of land and marine uses and enterprises, generating value for the local economy while allowing nature to flourish, e.g. continuous cover forestry, nature-based tourism, recreational fishing, regenerative aquaculture and high-nature value/​wild meats.

What does a Nature-Based Economy look like?

Our new report paints a picture, quite literally, of how a nature-based economy in the year 2030 would differ from today. Nature is rebounding in this imagined landscape: there are more saplings and scrub regenerating on the hills, the rivers are cleaner and less prone to flooding thanks to beaver reintroductions, and the peat bogs have become net carbon sinks again after being restored.

But, crucially, there are also people in this wilder landscape. People who are working on the land and sea, whether they’re restoring naturally-flowing rivers, mixing stock management with wildlife guiding, running community engagement activities, carrying out monitoring and research, leading recreational fishing trips, or learning from the Norwegian model to pioneer wild field sports. And more people are visiting the area to see the resurgent wildlife, visit eco-tourism projects, and spend their money in local cafes, pubs and shops. Rewilding and re-peopling’ can and must go hand in hand. 

Infographic NBE 2030
Infographic NBE today
Use the slider above to see what a Nature-Based Economy could look like in a typical rural, coastal community in 2030 – compared with the same place today © Jing Zhang

In this illustrative example, the primary source of employment historically in this area was textiles, which grew at the time of the thriving wool industry. Since the mid-20th century, the industry has been in decline along with the original mills and factory buildings. The economy is now largely reliant on farming and forestry alongside employment in the public and service sectors.

Investments
1. Limited inward investment
2. Reliance on public subsidies
3. Local spend rarely stays in local area

Ecological returns

4. Small nature reserves
5. Flood damage to local town
6. Net positive carbon emissions

Social returns

7. Shops and community spaces have closed
8. Poor transport connections and infrastructure
9. Young people leave to find work

Economic returns

10. Lack of diverse local employment
11. Farming incomes in decline
12. Large-scale forestry operations

A series of interventions has transformed the region. Communities and businesses have come together to develop new land and marine use plans. These include the restoration and rewilding of a mosaic of habitats. Nature-based investment and enterprise funding has revitalised local businesses and nurtured innovative business models. Improved public transport better connects the region with a city less than two hours away.

Investments
1. Rewilding and restoration activities
2. Nature-based financing and enterprise
3. Training and education

Ecological returns

4. Mosaic of flourishing habitats
5. Restored river and wetlands ‘slow the flow’
6. Higher carbon capture and storage

Social returns

7. Local engagement in decision-making
8. Better connected transport and infrastructure
9. Community cohesion and sense of place

Economic returns

10. Thriving range of nature-based businesses
11. Increased local employment and revenue
12. Diverse and integrated local supply chains

54% increase in jobs

over 10 years across 33 projects

Rewilding boosts and diversifies jobs

It’s a common misconception that rewilding means fewer job opportunities. After all, letting natural processes take the lead implies that fewer people will be needed to work the land.

Our analysis of rewilding sites across England in 2021 shows that’s not the case. In fact, rewilding has led to an increase in the number and diversity of jobs over 10 years thanks to rewilding. 

We carried out a detailed analysis of 33 of the projects within the Rewilding Network, covering an area of 53,175ha, of which 33,327ha have been assessed as rewilding. 

Over a period of 10 years rewilding led to a 54% increase in jobs and a thirteenfold increase in volunteering positions. Read more about the study in our Nature-Based Economy report.

More on Nature-Based Economies

Rockpooling copyright COAST

Rewilding and the rural economy

Rewilding Britain believed that a new and thriving ecosystem of employment can be built around the restoration and rewilding of nature.

Charlie and Issy image for RB SR Copyright 2020 s RGB full size 300dpi 7393

Case Study: Knepp Estate

Knepp Estate is probably the most famous rewilding project in Britain. We shine a light on its successful business model