On September 28, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa, delegates at the 8th World Conference on Ecological Restoration expressed their unanimous support for the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021 – 2030 (originally announced here in the March 15, 2019 issue of REVITALIZATION) with a call to action: “One earth, one future, one chance.”
The concept of a “Century of Restoration” was originally advocated back in 2002 in The Restoration Economy, so a decade is a belated-but-solid step forward. At the conference, more than 850 knowledge holders from 68 countries shared their experiences and expertise of ecological restoration research, practice and policy.
Ecological restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. Bethanie Walder, Executive Director of the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) said the recurring message is that we need to reconcile humanity’s relationship with the earth through ecological restoration: “Ecological restoration not only fights the climate crisis, it enhances food security, water supply and biodiversity.”
“Our call to action at this conference inspires the global community to rise together and achieve ecological restoration’s full potential. The world is entering an era of ecological restoration with communities and governments across the globe making impressive commitments to restore degraded lands through the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration,” she added.
The Decade will draw together community action, political support, research, and financial commitments to massively scale up restoration. More than two billion hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded landscapes offer potential for ecological restoration.
The conference Call to Action aims to elevate existing global goals such as the Bonn Challenge and the AFR100 African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative to go beyond just planting trees to fully incorporate nature-based solutions to build enduring, resilient ecosystems that deliver the full suite of services that people need to survive and thrive.
“We need to focus on real outcomes over metrics for ecological restoration to protect biodiversity, improve human health and well-being, ensure food and water security, deliver goods, services and economic prosperity, and address climate change,” said Jim Hallett, SER Board Chair.
Musonda Mumba, Chief of the Terrestrial Ecosystems Unit at UN Environment (UNEP) said the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is globally inclusive. “It is about people, including the marginalised. Now is the moment that we have to be the change the world needs.”
The conference Call to Action states: “Conservation alone is not enough. Carbon sequestration alone is not enough. Ecological restoration is a catalyst for transformative change that brings together all of these activities for our common good. We have one earth, one future, and one chance to get this right. Restoration is no longer optional, it’s a matter of survival.”
“We all need to take ownership and responsibility for this decade,” said George Gann, Chief Conservation Strategist at the Institute for Regional Conservation, based in Florida, USA.
The four main themes of the conference were cultural approaches to restoration, restoration for water security, economics of restoration, and implementing restoration on a global scale.
The conference was hosted jointly by the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER), the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries of South Africa (DEFF), and the South African Water Research Commission (WRC).
Photo of Cape Town, South Africa via Adobe Stock.