The UN has declared 2021-2030 the UN Decade of Restoration, and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 aims to restore ecosystems across the EU. Since 2010, more than €1.2 billion has been allocated to restoring over 11 million hectares of land and seascape across Europe, with over 200 funders and 1,000 organisations involved in restoration work.

Why does ecosystem restoration matter?

Ecosystem restoration aims to help natural and semi-natural environments thrive. When ecosystems function healthily, wildlife flourishes, and people benefit from clean air, water, food and spaces to connect with nature.

The benefits for people, known as ecosystem services, have been estimated to have a value of €125 billion per year – and restoring ecosystems is essential to keep them going. Restoration is also vital in tackling climate change: according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), restoring ecosystems could achieve 34% of the efforts necessary to keep global warming below 2°C.

Europe biodiversity ecosystem restoration
Ecosystem restoration is key for climate change mitigation and increasing biodiversity. Credit: Olivia Bailey/FFI

The idea is that, after a short burst of restoration activity – such as removing invasive species, allowing rivers to flow naturally, or reintroducing plants and animals that were formerly present – people and nature continue to experience the benefits of functioning ecosystems, with minimal management.

The scale of the work taking place and the opportunities and future ambitions for restoration are already substantial. But at the moment, there is no way of coordinating who is restoring what, where or when. Without this information, there is a risk that the new investments and activities we expect in the coming decade are not coordinated and are unlikely to be used to best effect.

What’s the solution?

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, supported by the Endangered Landscapes Programme*, have been working together to map the funding that has been committed to restoring ecosystems in Europe. Areas of focus include who is funding the work, who is receiving it, how much and for how long, which country, and which ecosystem type is being restored. Over 400 projects were included in the research, and all of the data is online here.

This research has highlighted important trends:

  • Over 85% of the projects focused on terrestrial ecosystems, and within the marine-focused work there was bias towards coastal ecosystems. There is likely far more work to do on restoring marine ecosystems.
  • 62% of projects focus on restoring natural ecosystems, despite Europe having huge areas of semi-natural land where restoration activities can also yield benefits.
  • Only 20% of restoration projects recognised their potential by mentioning a climate-related goal, despite the knowledge that restoration can make a significant contribution to climate change and development goals.

 

Marine ecosystems europe
Only 6% of projects focus exclusively on marine ecosystems, with a bias towards coastal ecosystem restoration Credit: Akdeniz Koruma Derneği

The new political commitments to restoration mean that there is a tremendous opportunity to bring about transformational change for people, nature and climate in the coming decade. We will be using our research to help policy makers and restoration practitioners to identify gaps, opportunities and potential partnerships, to make the most of this window of opportunity.

We’re interested to hear from anyone who would like to contribute information to the dataset or who is interested in collaborating on future research. The full research report (English and French) and database are available here.

*a Partnership between the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin