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Research at the University of Northampton has led to restoration of diverse habitats and ecosystem services across a 41,350 ha area, facilitated new models of community engagement with ecosystem services, and constituted a step change in regional policy-making and green infrastructure planning.



The Nene Valley NIA is one of twelve flagship nature conservation initiatives designated by the UK Government in 2012.



The NIA status for Nene Valley was awarded through a competitive process to support major, innovative evidence-led collaborations between policymakers, local communities, conservation organisations, landowners and universities. As partners, researchers at Northampton contributed directly to the formative evidence review which shaped the vision for NIA.



The researchers evidenced specific needs in relation to pollinators, flora, hedgerows and urban waterways, and green infrastructures, shaping investment priorities within the NIA. The needs analysis led to restoration of 115 ha of wildflower meadow and 350 local projects to improve water quality and river habitats in the region.

The initiative instigated community engagement with ecosystem services. The researchers have worked to lead and sustain a range of community consultations; for example, through a series of ‘community panels’ to discuss legacies and next steps for the NIA. Community members have continued to be involved in volunteering activities, recording more than 63,000 hours of time towards restoration and mapping.

The work has provided an evidence-base for ‘green infrastructure’ as a policy/planning tool in relation to ecosystem services, regionally and nationally. The biodiversity maps and ecosystem services datasets created through the research are actively used by diverse local authorities to understand the connections between biodiversity and ecosystem services. The value of the underpinning ‘green infrastructure’ approach has been recognised in the Northampton Green Infrastructure Plan’s shortlisting for a 2018 Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) award, and in its widespread adoption in planning policy frameworks.


More information 

Institution: University of Northampton 

Researchers: Professor Jeff Ollerton, Dr Janet Jackson, Dr Duncan McCollin

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How to cite

Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Shaping the Nene Valley Nature Improvement Area. Available at  Last accessed on: <date>