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Whenever our ESRs publish their research, the reference and link will be added here. 


Link to the article 

Large-scale ecological restoration is crucial for effective biodiversity conservation and combating climate change. However, perspectives on the goals and values of restoration are highly diverse, as are the different approaches to restoration e.g. ranging from the restoration of cultural ecosystems to rewilding. We assess how the future of nature is envisioned in participatory scenarios, focusing on which elements of rewilding and nature contributions to people have been considered in scenario narratives across Europe. We used the Nature Futures Framework archetypes as a template to synthesize pluralistic perspectives of nature. We found that different values of nature are often represented as counteracting elements and fail to integrate the plural views of nature. Nature as Culture was the main archetype found in the scenarios, usually associated with positive impacts on the non-material benefits to people. Intrinsic values of nature (i.e., Nature for Nature) were associated with positive impacts on regulating benefits and negative impacts on material benefits, being the only archetype of future associated with positive impacts on all three components of rewilding. Nature for Society was associated with moderate positive impacts on material and regulatory nature contributions to people. Business as usual futures were associated with negative impacts on regulating and non-material benefits to people and on all three components of rewilding. Our results highlight two major gaps in the scenarios that should be addressed in participatory restoration planning and models. Firstly, there is a paucity of spatially explicit approaches, with most studies failing to transform the results of participatory scenario planning into model projections. Secondly, we found scenarios that explored co-benefits between multiple nature perspectives were overall missing from the literature. Novel scenario narratives and approaches that explore synergies among different nature values are needed to design future large-scale restoration where biodiversity recovery and human well-being are intrinsically linked and fostered.

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Societal Impact Statement

Plants play fundamental roles in ecosystems, yet merely 10% of species have an assessment of their global extinction risk. Through the integration of national Red Lists and comprehensive global plant distribution data, we identify previously unassessed plant species in Europe that are threatened throughout their geographic range and thus at risk of global extinction. Our workflow can be replicated to facilitate the integration of disparate national monitoring efforts around the world and help accelerate global plant risk assessments.


  • A comprehensive extinction risk assessment for plant species is a global biodiversity target. However, currently, only 10% of plant diversity is assessed in the global Red List of Threatened Species. To guide conservation and restoration actions in times of accelerated species extinction, plant risk assessments must be expedited.
  • Here, we examine the extinction risk of vascular plant species in Europe through the integration of two data streams: (1) national Red Lists and (2) global plant distribution data from Kew’s Plants of the World Online database. For each species listed on a national Red List, we create a list of countries that form part of its range and indicate the threat status in these countries, allowing us to calculate the percentage of the range in which a given species is listed as threatened.
  • We find that 7% to 9% of European vascular plant diversity is threatened in its entire range, the majority of which are single-country endemics. Of these globally threatened species, 84% currently have no assessment in the global Red List.
  • With increasing national biodiversity monitoring commitments shaping the post-2020 policy environment, we anticipate that integrating national Red Lists with global plant distribution data is a scalable workflow that can help accelerate global risk assessments of plants.
Link to the article 

We review palaeoenvironmental proxies and combinations of these relevant for understanding hunter-gatherer niche construction activities in pre-agricultural Europe. Our approach consists of two steps: (1) identify the possible range of hunter-gatherer impacts on landscapes based on ethnographic studies; (2) evaluate proxies possibly reflecting these impacts for both the Eemian (Last Interglacial, Middle Palaeolithic) and the Early–Middle Holocene (Mesolithic). We found these paleoenvironmental proxies were not able to unequivocally establish clear-cut differences between specific anthropogenic, climatic and megafaunal impacts for either time period in this area. We discuss case studies for both periods and show that published evidence for Mesolithic manipulation of landscapes is based on the interpretation of comparable data as available for the Last Interglacial. If one applies the ‘Mesolithic’ interpretation schemes to the Neanderthal record, three common niche construction activities can be hypothesised: vegetation burning, plant manipulation and impact on animal species presence and abundance. Our review suggests that as strong a case can be made for a Neanderthal impact on landscapes as for anthropogenic landscape changes during the Mesolithic, even though the Neanderthal evidence comes from only one high-resolution site complex. Further research should include attempts (e.g. by means of modelling studies) to establish whether hunter-gatherer impact on landscapes played out at a local level only versus at a larger scale during both time periods, while we also need to obtain comparative data on the population sizes of Last Interglacial and Holocene hunter-gatherers, as these are usually inferred to have differed significantly.


‘Landscape modification by Last Interglacial Neanderthals’ by Anastasia Nikulina (ESR 3), Wil Roebroeks, Katharine MacDonald, Fulco Scherjon, Corrie Bakels, Lutz Kindler, Eduard Pop, Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser was first published in Science Advances on 15 December 2021 


Little is known about the antiquity, nature, and scale of Pleistocene hunter-gatherer impact on their ecosystems, despite the importance for studies of conservation and human evolution. Such impact is likely to be limited, mainly because of low population densities, and challenging to detect and interpret in terms of cause-effect dynamics. We present high-resolution paleoenvironmental and archaeological data from the Last Interglacial locality of Neumark-Nord (Germany). Among the factors that shaped vegetation structure and succession in this lake landscape, we identify a distinct ecological footprint of hominin activities, including fire use. We compare these data with evidence from archaeological and baseline sites from the same region. At Neumark-Nord, notably open vegetation coincides with a virtually continuous c. 2000-year-long hominin presence, and the comparative data strongly suggest that hominins were a contributing factor. With an age of c. 125,000 years, Neumark-Nord provides an early example of a hominin role in vegetation transformation.

What is the future of abandoned agricultural lands? A systematic review of alternative trajectories in Europe’ by Catherine Fayet, Kate Reilly, Chantal Van Ham and Peter Verburg was published in Land Use Policy.


Agricultural land abandonment and its impacts on landscape features have been a striking characteristic of many European rural areas over the last decades. Although previous research identified drivers and environmental impacts of abandonment, few described the post-agricultural abandonment trajectories. However, examining the driving forces leading to different post-agricultural abandonment trajectories is key to understand how alternative uses of these lands can be developed to address the environmental, economic, and social challenges faced in these areas. This paper reviews the literature of the different trajectories observed after agricultural abandonment and the related drivers and processes. Based on the literature evidence, we proposed a novel categorisation of different abandonment trajectories, with their drivers and landscape outcomes. In most reported cases, lands transitioned towards semi-natural landscapes and few returned to different agricultural uses after abandonment. The most common driving force of the landscape trajectory was the absence of land management where secondary succession processes led to semi-natural landscapes. Quality and state of these landscapes were variable. Alternative trajectories were essentially driven by institutional and socio-economic drivers within biophysical constraints and opportunities for (re-)afforestation, re-farming, and multifunctional uses of the land after abandonment. While abandoned lands can bring opportunities to respond to biodiversity and other environmental policy goals, the evidence across case studies suggests that adequate resources with institutional and socio-economic incentives are required to stimulate favourable development, mitigate, potential trade-offs, and support land management.

 ‘Coping with Risk. A Deep-Time Perspective on Societal Responses to Ecological Uncertainty in the River Dalälven Catchment Area in Sweden’ by Kailin Hatlestad (ESR 2), Joakim Wehlin and Karl-Johan Lindholm was published in Land.

First published on 23 August 2021

Abstract: In addressing the current climate crisis, research into how past societies have coped with risk and ecological uncertainty can provide old solutions to new problems. Here, we examine how human niche construction can be seen as risk management in the face of uncertainty by exploring the spatial patterning of land-use activities over time. Dalarna county, an agriculturally marginal boreal forest environment, provides the opportunity for addressing change in terms of agricultural responses and other activities. C14 archaeological records complied by Dalarna Museum were the base of this analysis. The spatial and temporal components of these Boreal Forest records were analyzed in the open-source software QGIS, guided by a historical ecology framework. Human niches diversified and intensified during specific periods in the Boreal forest environment; our focus has been on how humans managed resource risk related to the ecological uncertainty within this forest environment characterized by long winters and short growing seasons. We conclude that constructed niches shaped the Boreal Forest, spanning its environmentally unique upland and lowland regions, into a more predictable environment. Tracking the diversity, multi-functionality, and intensity of these past land-use activities can provide insights for best practices in land management, not only for the Boreal Forest area, but also for elsewhere. These insights will assist in policy-making decisions, as the methodology is adaptable and replicable for various landscapes.

Expert-based assessment of rewilding indicates progress at site-level, yet challenges for upscaling – Josiane Segar (ESR 12), Henrique M. Pereira, Raquel Filgueiras, Alexandros A. Karamanlidis, Deli Saavedra, Néstor FernándezThis article was published in Ecography: a journal of time and space in ecology.

First published: 1 September 2021

Rewilding is gaining importance across Europe, as agricultural abandonment trajectories present opportunities for large-scale restoration. However, its effective implementation is hitherto limited, in part due to a severe lack of monitoring of rewilding interventions and their interactions. In our paper, we provide a first assessment of rewilding progress across seven European sites. Using an iterative and participatory Delphi technique to standardize and analyze expert-based knowledge of these sites, we created an inventory of rewilding interventions, 2) assess rewilding progress by quantifying 19 indicators spanning human forcing and ecological integrity, and 3) compile key success and threat factors for rewilding progress. We find that the most common interventions were keystone species reintroductions, whereas the least common targeted stochastic disturbances. We find that rewilding scores have improved in five sites, but declined in two, partly due to competing socio-economic trends. Major threats for rewilding progress are related to land-use intensification policies and persecution of keystone species. Major determinants of rewilding success are its societal appeal and socio-economic benefits to local people. We provide an assessment of rewilding that is crucial in improving its restoration outcomes and informed implementation at scale across Europe in this decade of ecosystem restoration.

Anastasia Nikulina (ESR 3) participated in the conference of the European Society for the study of Human Evolution (ESHE). The meeting was virtual this year, and participants from all over the globe could join to discussions. Anastasia prepared an abstract, poster and a video presentation in advance, and an elevator pitch was given during a moderated session. You can read more about it here.