Documents to download


Overview of key points

The UK has lost more of its nature than most countries globally. Of the four UK countries, England is the most nature-depleted. Species listed as conservation priorities that are most threatened under Section 41 of the NERC Act 2006 (‘priority species’) continue to decline. A major driver of this decline is the degradation, fragmentation and loss of habitats that species depend on.  

Ecological restoration is the process of promoting the recovery of an ecosystem from a degraded state. Restoration can deliver for ecosystems, habitats, and species; or it can prioritise outcomes for each individually. Ecological restoration can improve the condition of habitats, expand their size, and connect them with other habitat patches as suggested in the 2010 Lawton review which was commissioned to make recommendations on improving England’s wildlife (‘bigger, better and more joined up’). Habitat creation is where habitats are re-established on land where that habitat type no longer exists often because of historic land-use change.  

The Government has consulted on environmental targets for England. These are part of the framework which sets the direction for achieving the 25 Year Environment Plan goals. They include a ‘long-term wider habitats target’ to create or restore 500,000 ha of wildlife-rich habitat outside legally protected conservation sites by 2042. Increasing the area of good quality habitat for wildlife would contribute to the key target to halt the decline in species abundance (the number of individuals per species) by 2030 (with further longer-term targets proposed on species abundance and extinction).5 Other complementary targets to restore and create specific semi-natural habitat types are also being set.  

The restoration approaches used, time taken for habitat recovery, costs and challenges will be partially dependent upon the type of habitat being restored. Therefore, this POSTbrief describes approaches to and challenges of restoring different semi-natural habitat types in England including native woodlands, heathlands, grasslands, wetlands, and coastal habitats. 


POSTbriefs are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including: 

Bethany Chamberlain, BES Policy 

Dr Daniela Russi, BES Policy 

Peter Shepherd, BSG Ecology 

Jamie Robbins, Buglife B-lines 

Rachel Richards, Buglife B-lines 

Jason Reeves, CIEEM 

Harry Greenfield, Country Land and Business Association (CLA)* 

Professor Jim Harris, Cranfield University/RestREco 

Freya Dixon van-Djik, Defra* 

Eleanor Andrews, Defra* 

Hugh Loxton, Defra* 

Judith Stuart, Defra* 

Henrietta Appleton, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust/Allerton Project 

Alastair Leake, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust/Allerton Project 

Dr Ted Chapman, Kew/UK Native Seed Hub 

Dr Christopher Cockel, Kew/UK Native Seed Hub 

Professor Simon Caporn , Manchester Metropolitan/CARE PEAT Project* 

David Payne, Mineral Products Association (MPA)* 

Dr Rosie Hails, National Trust 

James Grischeff, Natural England 

Verity Pitts, Natural England/Dynamic Dunescapes* 

Dr Louise Denning, Natural England/Dynamic Dunescapes* 

Katey Stephen, Natural England* 

Frances McCullagh, Natural England* 

Emma Goldberg, Natural England* 

Dr Louise Denning, Natural England* 

David Glaves, Natural England* 

Dr Alice Noble, Natural England* 

Dr Isabel Alonso, Natural England* 

Clare Pinches, Natural England* 

Poppy Sherborne, NFU* 

Professor David Gowing, Open University/Floodplain Meadows Partnership* 

Jenna Hegarty, RSPB 

Nigel Symes, RSPB/Nature After Minerals 

David Edwards, Sheffield University 

Professor Kirsty Park, Stirling University/RestREco/WrEn 

Dr Emma Toovey, the Environment Bank 

Dr Jo Treweek, Treweek Environmental Consultants/UK Hab/eCountability/Wendling Beck Environment Project 

Professor James Bullock, UKCEH/RestREco 

Dr Nick Isaac, UKCEH 

Katie Powell, UKCEH/BES Policy 

Professor Richard Pywell, UKCEH/RestREco 

Bob Edmunds, UKHab 

Professor Douglas Yu, University of East Anglia/Nature Metrics 

John Martin, University of Plymouth 

Glenn Anderson, Wendling Beck Environment Project 

Richard Benwell , Wildlife and Countryside link 

Christine Reid, Woodland Trust* 

Dr Nathalie Pettorelli, ZSL/IUCN Rewilding Working Group 


*denotes people and organisations who acted as external reviewers of the briefing 

Documents to download

Related posts