The United Nations designated 2021-2030 the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021–2030, “with the aim of supporting and scaling up efforts to prevent, halt, and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide and raise awareness of the importance of successful ecosystem restoration.” In this blog, we will review the proclamation, its rationale, goals, and how land conservation helps meet those goals.
Proposed by El Salvador’s Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Lina Pohl, to the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2018, the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 is aimed at boosting existing efforts to restore degraded ecosystems. On March 1, 2019, the UN General Assembly officially adopted the resolution, declaring 2021–2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
According to Minister Pohl, “Ecosystem restoration promoted through this UN Decade takes a multi-functional landscape approach, looking at the mosaic of interdependent land uses in which ecological, economic, social, and development-based priorities can find convergence, balance, and complementarity.”
The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration stresses the importance of ecosystem conservation while addressing the need to reverse ongoing losses to ecosystem services that have serious impacts on human livelihoods.
The United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 will focus on balancing ecological, social, and developmental priorities in landscapes where different forms of land use interact, with the aim of fostering long term resilience.
The simplest definition of an ecosystem is that it is a community or group of living organisms that live in and interact with each other in a specific environment. Ecosystem services are the benefits to humans provided by the natural environment and from healthy ecosystems. They include provisioning services (energy, water, food, and medicinal resources), climate regulating services, habitat services, and cultural and amenity services (how humans physically and mentally benefit through interaction with nature).
Ecosystem restoration seeks to repair some of the damage done to ecosystems. It assists the recovery of degraded, damaged, and destroyed ecosystems, to regain ecological functionality and provide goods and services of value to humans. The beneficial effects of ecosystem restoration include increased food and water security, contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and managing the associated risks of conflict and migration.
The UN Decade aims to promote a concerted and holistic landscape-focused approach to the interdependence of ecosystems, human needs, and biodiversity, to accelerate the progress needed to maintain and restore ecosystems.
The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration was established to encourage Member States:
- To foster political will, the mobilization of resources, capacity-building, scientific research and cooperation and momentum for ecosystem restoration at the global, regional, national, and local levels, as appropriate.
- To mainstream ecosystem restoration into policies and plans to address current national development priorities and challenges due to the degradation of marine and terrestrial ecosystems, biodiversity loss and climate change vulnerability, thereby creating opportunities for ecosystems to increase their adaptive capacity and opportunities to maintain and improve livelihoods for all.
- To develop and implement policies and plans to prevent ecosystem degradation, in line with national laws and priorities, as appropriate.
- To build on and reinforce existing restoration initiatives to scale up good practices.
- To facilitate synergies and a holistic view of how to achieve international commitments and national priorities through the restoration of ecosystems.
- To promote the sharing of experiences and good practices in ecosystem conservation and restoration.
So, what role can conservation play?
In their article “The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030): What can protected areas contribute?” Nigel Dudley and other suggest numerous ways in which area-based conservation for protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) could play a key role in the decade including: best practice in restoration within protected areas and OECMs, using area-based conservation as a component in specific restoration approaches, and support for restoration of ecosystem services. A protected area is a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated, and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values. An OECM is ‘A geographically defined area other than a Protected Area, which is governed and managed in ways that achieve positive and sustained long-term outcomes for the in-situ conservation of biodiversity, with associated ecosystem functions and services and, where applicable, cultural, spiritual, socioeconomic, and other locally relevant values.’ An example of an OECM is a watershed.
These conservation actions for protected land and water are exactly what The Conservation Foundation (TCF) does. TCF preserves and restores land and water using best conservation practices. In addition, these efforts with the Lower Fox River Land Conservation Plan, DuPage Natural Areas Plan, Protect Kendall Now! Plan. and other areas have resulted in ecosystem services such as physical and mental health benefits (see the TCF Nature Rx web page for additional details).
Providing a different perspective in “A world of possibilities: six restoration strategies to support the United Nation’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration,” James Aronson et al. propose several “practical strategies to strengthen the effectiveness and amplify the work of ecological restoration to meet the aspirations of the Decade.” These include collaboration with allied movements and organizations, providing training and capacity-building opportunities for communities and practitioners, and the study and demonstration of the relationships between ecosystem health and human health.
Here again, TCF is at the forefront of these efforts. Through its numerous actions with other conservation organizations (e.g., its affiliation with Chicago Living Corridors), Education and Outreach activities, and Nature Rx program, TCF solidly supports the UN Decade. Perfect examples of “Think Globally, Act Locally.”
Ready to fight for conservation and be on the front lines for the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration? Well, conservation is what TCF does every day. We can all do more together than we can alone. Join our collective momentum – Become a member today!
By Steve Stawarz, Oak Brook
DuPage County Advisory Council Member