Ecosystem restoration for transformative change

Ecostack Innovations has recently prepared a report on ecosystem restoration as a nature-based solution, and has co-organised the closing event of the NetworkNature Semester on Ecosystem Restoration during The Nature of Cities (TNOC) Festival 2022.

The TNOC Festival is a virtual festival that spans 3 full days across all regional time zones and is provided in multiple languages. A core philosophy of the festival is to foster inclusivity and lower barriers to participation. The festival focuses on facilitating transdisciplinary dialogue, small group workshops, arts engagement, and fostering a collaborative spirit around solutions for how to build cities that are better for nature and all people.

Ecosystem Restoration is defined as the process of halting and reversing degradation, resulting in improved ecosystem services and recovered biodiversity. Ecosystem restoration, therefore, encompasses a wide continuum of practices, depending on local conditions and societal choice (def. from UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030). Data reported from the UN Decade shows a global target of restoration for 350 million ha of degraded land by 2030. This allows for the removal of 13 - 26 Gt of GHG from the atmosphere while generating $9 trillion worth of ecosystem services. These actions will only require $1 trillion, thus only 0.1% of global economic output by 2030.

During the session, the results obtained from the analysis of case-studies submitted to a recent call for Ecosystem Restoration case studies from across the globe was presented by the expert Dr Mario V Balzan. Results indicate that some societal challenges are more tackled with ecosystem restoration than others. Specifically, Climate Resilience and Biodiversity reduction are mostly tackled in quite all the ecosystems, whereas other challenges that are more of social or economic nature seem to be less addressed through ecosystem restoration projects. From this study comes the idea and purpose of the seed session.

During the seed session, the recent developments regarding the publication of the EU Nature Restoration Law were discussed, with Mr Benjamin Caspar from the European Commission, DG ENV. The EU Nature Restoration Law will for the first time EU law will explicitly target nature restoration. It is the first new nature legislation in nearly a decade, and it will include compulsory targets for different ecosystems. The main message is that not only should nature be protected, but also restore ecosystems to avoid biodiversity loss and prevent the worst impact of climate change. The Law will focus on all the ecosystems having the greatest potential for removing and storing carbon, preventing the impact of natural disasters such as floods, and all the species they host. It will also focus on NBS which will restore biodiversity and help with the adaptation and mitigation of climate change as well.

The EU Green Deal-funded ecological restoration projects were subsequently presented. These projects have the ambition to restore nature, contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity enhancement, and improvements in the quality of life of communities. Some of the common themes of these projects are community and stakeholder engagement, the development of effective nature-based solutions, governance and finance.

Finally, the workshop included a networking session, during which the participants were asked to evaluate opportunities for transformative change through ecosystem restoration using a dedicated framework.