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Department of Geography


Ecosystem Services, Ecological Restoration and Conservation Strategy

Conservation strategies are continuously evolving in response to biodiversity decline, combining characteristics of path dependence and radical revision (Adams 2010). Recent debates, for example about the so-called ‘new conservation‘, have turned around the idea of ecosystem services and the place of ecological restoration within conservation strategies.

The human transformation of nature is profound and far-reaching (Bill McKibben wrote of ‘the end of nature‘ in 2009). Arguably conservationists have become obsessed with the idea of pristine nature: Emma Marris described the earth as a Rambunctuous Garden, celebrating its human-made character. Others argue it is no such thing, and that conservationists are (wrongly) ‘giving up on wilderness‘. The idea of novel ecosystems emerging under human influence is fiercely debated, and the concept of the Anthropocene has been widely critiqued for the technocentric environmentalism its sense of crisis can legitimate. What implications does an understanding of the open-endedness of ecological change have for ecological restoration (Hughes et al. 2011, 2012), and how can such on understanding be integrated into conservation thinking?

Debates about ecological restoration and habitat creation interlock with those about ecosystem services. Under what conditions can the utilitarian values of nature provide a strategic argument for the conservation of nature (Redford and Adams 2009, Vira and Adams 2009)? How does a concern for services map onto conservation’s long-standing concern for rare species or habitats? What implications does a pursuit of ecosystem services have for the place of ideas about pristine nature? Is there common ground between ecosystem restoration and service provision?

This project explores these issues, analysing changing ideas about ecosystem services and ecological restoration in conservation. Key questions are: 1) How are ideas about ecosystem services and ecological restoration influencing conservation strategy? 2) How can change in biodiversity and ecosystem services over long time frames and larger areas be assessed? 3) What are the implications of dynamic biophysical processes in restoration projects for conservation strategy?

The primary focus is landscape scale restoration of wetland environments in the UK. The project has grown out of work on the political ecology of landscape-scale conservation, and is being developed alongside work on Conservation and Ecosystem Services In the New biodiversity Economy (Adams et al 2014, Apostolopoulou and Adams 2014).


  • Hughes, F.M.R., Stroh, P., Adams, W.A. Kirby, K. Mountford, J.O., Warrington, S. (2011) Monitoring and evaluating large-scale, open-ended habitat creation projects: a journey rather than a destination. Journal for Nature Conservation 19: 245-253
  • Hughes, F.M.R., Stroh, P. and Adams, W.M. (2012) ‘When is Open-endedness Desirable in Restoration Projects?’ Restoration Ecology 20: 291-5.
  • Adams, W.M., Hodge, I.D and Sandbrook, L. (2014) ‘New Spaces for Nature: the re-territorialization of biodiversity conservation under neoliberalism in the UK’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers (doi:10.1111/tran.12050)
  • Apostolopoulou, E. and Adams, W.M. (2014) ‘ Neoliberal capitalism and conservation in the post-crisis era: the dialectics of “green” and “un-green” grabbing’, Antipode doi:10.1111/anti.12102
  • Hodge, I.D. and Adams, W.M. (2014) ‘Property institutions for rural land conservation: towards a post-neoliberal agenda’, Journal of Rural Studies 36: 453-62
  • Apostolopoulou, E. and Adams, W.M. (2015) ‘Biodiversity Offsetting and Conservation: Reframing Nature to Save It’, Oryx DOI:
  • Hughes, F. M. R., W. M. Adams, S. H. M. Butchart, R. H. Field, K. S.-H. Peh and S. Warrington. (2016) The challenges of integrating biodiversity and ecosystem services monitoring and evaluation at a landscape-scale wetland restoration project in the UK. Ecology and Society 21 (3):10. [online] URL:
  • Adams, W.M., Hodge, I.D., Macgregor, N.A. and Sandbrook, L. (2016) ‘Creating restoration landscapes: partnerships in large-scale conservation in the UK’ Ecology and Society 21(3):1.
  • Hodge, I.D. and Adams, W.M. (2016) ‘Short-Term Projects versus Adaptive Governance: Conflicting Demands in the Management of Ecological Restoration’, Land 5, 39: doi:10.3390/land5040039