National Initiatives

The following is a list of national programmes and other initiatives that are supporting the application of more integrated and people-centred management of the environment (see the ecosystem approach). They are listed according to whether they apply to in multiple parts of the UK or in some constituent jurisdictions.

See also:

  • Case studies of the ecosystem approach in practice, prepared by the Ecosystems Knowledge Nework
  • Research initiatives that relate to the ecosystem approach.  


A Living Landscape

A Living Landscape is a nature recovery scheme initiated by The Wildlife Trusts since 2006. More than 100 Living Landscape schemes are underway across the whole of the UK, covering a project area of more than 1.5 million hectares. Each Living Landscape scheme covers a large area of land: a naturally functioning landscape (such as a river catchment) often encompassing several Wildlife Trust reserves and other important wildlife areas.


Working in partnership with local communities, businesses, third sector groups and government authorities through Futurescapes, the RSPB aims to make UK landscapes more wildlife-friendly. Taking a landscape scale approach to conservation, these partnerships aim to create more space for wildlife through increasing protected areas as well as managing the wider countryside in ways in a more wildlife friendly way.

Landscape Partnerships

Landscape Partnerships are a Heritage Lottery Fund grant programme which is normally delivered by a partnership made up of regional, national and local organisations with an interest in the area, community groups and members of the community. The programme is based around a portfolio of smaller projects, which together provide long-term social, economic and environmental benefits for rural areas.

For Wales

Nature Action Zones

The Welsh Government has invested £6 million in seven Nature Action Zones. The aim of the funding is to improve river catchments, take action for marine ecosystems and the local environment, to realise the potentail of upland areas and to stimulate innovation.

Nature Fund

Welsh Government has funded 20 Nature Fund projects to deliver activities in the Nature Action Zones that benefit people and wildlife. Some of these are notable for their level of innovation. An example is the Llynfi Valley Woodland Creation Project in South Wales, creating woodland on an area of former mining land in order to benefit the health of the local community and support the local economy.

Natural Resource Management Trials

In preparation for implementation of obligations under the Environment Act 2016, Natural Resources Wales has undertaken three trials of sustainable management of natural resources, the Tawe River Catchment, the Dyfi River Catchment and the Rhonda Valley. The Ecosystems Knowledge Network will share findings from as soon as they are available. 

For Scotland

Government and public agencies

The public sector in Scotland is supporting the application of an ecosystems approach at the local and regional scale. The Scottish Government’s Land Use Strategy makes explicit reference to the approach.

Green networks, including green infrastructure

See the pages of Scottish Natural Heritage and the Central Scotland Green Network. See also the pages of Greenspace Scotland.

Engaging communities

Scottish Natural Heritage has initiated a climate change conversations project to explore with communities the effects of climate change on landscape and quality of life at a local level.

Managing wildlands and native forests

The Scottish Forest Alliance is made up of four members; BP, Forestry Commission Scotland, RSPB Scotland and Woodland Trust Scotland. The aims of the Alliance are to practice sustainable forestry and to create more than 10,800 hectares of new forest habitat over the next 200 years. This will be achieved in a wider landscape area of 32,600 hectares, including wooded areas, pasture, bogs, mires and moorland. There are five specific objectives: native woodland regeneration and expansion, conservation of biodiversity, socio-economic gains, carbon sequestration research and informing climate change policy development. More information is in Creating Woodlands for Wildlife and People in Scotland.

For England

Nature Improvement Areas

Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs) are large, discrete areas that will deliver a step change in nature conservation, where a local partnership has a shared vision for their natural environment. The partnership will plan and deliver significant improvements for wildlife and people through the sustainable use of natural resources, restoring and creating wildlife habitats, connecting local sites and joining up local action. Twelve NIAs were sponsored by Defra, some of which are continuing using other funding sources. To learn more about NIAs, visit the Natural England Nature Improvement Areas web pages.

Local Nature Partnerships

England has a network of Local Nature Partnerships whose purpose is to bring a diverse range of individuals, businesses and organisations together at a local level to create a vision and plan of action of how the natural environment can be taken into account in decision making. 

Defra case studies on application of an ecosystems approach

In 2006 to 2008, Defra commissioned a series of case studies of the application of an ecosystems approach in a variety of settings (see the links to NR0109, NR0110, NR0111 and NR0112 under the sub-title 'Case studies', two thirds of the way down the page).

Natural England’s Green Infrastructure Programme

Natural England is promoting the concept of Green Infrastructure as a way to deliver a wide range of benefits for people and the natural environment together. Green Infrastructure is a strategically planned and delivered network of high quality green spaces and other environmental features. Green Infrastructure includes parks, open spaces, playing fields, woodlands, allotments and private gardens. Visit Natural England’s Green Infrastructure Programme website.

Local Enterprise Partnerships

Local Enterprise Partnerships are locally-owned partnerships between local authorities and businesses. They aim to provide the vision, knowledge and strategic leadership needed to drive sustainable private sector growth and job creation in their area. There are currently 39 agreed partnerships across England. See also The Local Enterprise Partnerships Network.

Neighbourhood Planning

The Localism Act 2011, introduced new rights and powers to allow local communities to shape new development by preparing neighbourhood plans. This process can be taken forward by town and parish councils, as well as 'neighbourhood forums'.

Rural Community Action Network

The Rural Communities Action Network brings together 38 charitable local development agencies across England, generally based at county level, which support and enable initiatives in rural communities.  The website includes links to each member organisation. The national umbrella body for the Network is Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE). The ACRE website includes guidance on community led planning.

Green Infrastructure Partnership

The Green Infrastructure Partnership fulfils a commitment made in the Natural Environment White Paper. The partnership brings together expertise in civil society, professional bodies, local authorities, developers, planners and social housing enterprises, among others to further develop green infrastructure. On 1 April 2014, the support role for the Partnership was taken on by the Town and Country Planning Association. A separate page on this Ecosystems Knowledge Network website lists tools and guidelines on green infrastructure.

Upland Ecosystem Service Pilots

In 2009, Natural England initiated three upland ecosystem services pilot projects to provide practical examples demonstrating an ecosystems approach. The projects were located in Bassenthwaite (Lake District), the South Pennines and the uplands of South West England. An evaluation report on the first phase was published in December 2012.

Payments for ecosystem services pilots

Payments for ecosystem services schemes connect the beneficiaries, or users, of ecosystem services with the stewards, or providers, of those services. Defra has initiated three rounds of research pilots for PES. A separate webpage has more information on PES.

Multi-objective flood management demonstration scheme

The purpose of this scheme was to demonstrate the contribution land management change can make to managing local flood risk at the same time as contributing to wider environmental objectives. Defra, the Environment Agency, Natural England and other partners work on reducing flood risk to vulnerable communities by working with natural processes. So far, three collaborative projects led by The National Trust, the Environment Agency and Forest Research commenced work in the summer of 2009. The Holnicote project is described further here.

Catchment Pilots 

The Environment Agency has led a series of catchment pilots. This initiative tested approaches to improved engagement, information sharing and co-ordination of action to manage river catchments. It is assessing how to involve local people and businesses to protect and improve water and to build approached that deliver multiple benefits. A catchment planning handbook is  being produced. This will include case studies and good practice from all pilots and similar initiatives. The Catchment Restoration Fund (CRF) for England is open for applications for projects that will deliver improvements to England's water bodies.

Demonstration Test Catchments

The Defra funded Demonstration Test Catchment initiative is designed to provide robust evidence regarding how diffuse pollution can be cost-effectively controlled to improve and maintain water quality in rural river catchment areas. The test catchments are in Cumbria, Norfolk and Hampshire.

Total Environment Initiative

The Total Environment Initiative brought together Defra, its agencies, and the Local Government Association to work with municipal areas to develop new approaches to addressing major local environmental issues at the local level in England. Eleven Total Environment pilot projects took place, distributed from Bristol in the South West to West Yorkshire in the North. A summary report published in 2013 provides some of the learning points. These will be of particular interest to local authorities that would like to join-up their work on environment-related issues, and work more closely with public agencies.