Donate | Join | Print Page | Sign In
International Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration
Share |

The International Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration 12 December 2016 (downloadable pdf)

In December 2016, SER released new International Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 13th Conference of the Parties (COP) in Cancun, Mexico. Our partnership with the CBD has helped us to mainstream and advance ecological restoration around the world. Most recently SER members assisted with development of a Short Term Action Plan on Ecosystem Restoration that was adopted by the Parties to the CBD at COP 13. Launch of the International Standards at COP 13 was a natural and timely fit.

In his opening address to COP13 Executive Secretary Braulio Diaz said, “Restoration is another area that requires the participation of all partners, and a common and coherent approach. The short-term action plan on ecosystem restoration should facilitate our work on the achievement of Aichi Biodiversity Target 15, and corresponding national targets and pledges in this area.”

The International Standards fill this growing need for a “common and coherent approach” to achieve targets under the Paris Climate Agreement, the Bonn Challenge and numerous other international environmental and sustainability agreements. The International Standards can help individual countries expand and improve the practice of ecological restoration on the ground and insure that investments are well spent.

SER Global Restoration Ambassador George Gann partnered with Tein McDonald from the SER-Australasia Chapter to adapt and finalize the International Standards. Earlier in 2016 the SER Australasia Chapter published Australian National Standards in a special edition of Restoration Ecology. The Australian Standards, as well as several other SER documents (e.g., 2004 SER Primer on Ecological Restoration; 2012 Parks Canada/IUCN/SER Ecological Restoration for Protected Areas Guide) provided important stepping stones from which to build these new International Standards. 

George Gann Presenting International Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration at COP13

The International Standards present the steps required to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate a restoration project to increase the likelihood of its success,” said Gann. “This builds on previous international work of SER, and fills a critical gap in international ecological restoration efforts.”

The International Standards were reviewed by more than two dozen restoration ecologists, including practitioners, from across the world. The International Standards provide a framework for guiding the development and implementation of ecological restoration projects in any ecosystem, in any country, anywhere in the world. They are not ecosystem specific, though our intent is that ecosystem specific standards will be collaboratively developed in the future.

The Standards include a 5-star rating system ranging from the implementation of restorative actions to full ecological restoration. The Standards are built on six key concepts: 

  1. Ecological restoration practice is based on an appropriate local native reference ecosystem, taking environmental change into account
  2. Identifying the target ecosystem’s key attributes is required prior to developing longer term goals and shorter-term objectives
  3. The most reliable way to achieve recovery is to assist natural recovery processes, supplementing them to the extent natural recovery potential is impaired
  4. Restoration seeks ‘highest and best effort’ progression towards full recovery
  5. Successful restoration draws on all relevant knowledge
  6. Early, genuine and active engagement with all stakeholders underpins long-term restoration success.

The International Standards expand on SER’s previous work to clarify the degree of recovery represented by ecological restoration in times of anthropogenic climate change and other rapid environmental changes. They also recognize the value of other types of environmental repair efforts (e.g., rehabilitation, remediation and reclamation) where those efforts represent the highest quality of recovery possible or appropriate to the circumstances.

After the International Standards were released at COP13, Ulrich Apel, a Senior Environmental Specialist at the Global Environment Facility commented, “The different restoration initiatives that have been initiated globally like the Bonn Challenge, the New York Declaration on Forests, Initiative 20x20 in Latin America, the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), and the Asia-Pacific Rainforest Recovery Plan, etc. need better coherence in terms of definitions of forest landscape restoration and practices, best practice guidelines, joint monitoring of the multiple environmental and social benefits that are created, and documentation of lessons learned. SER’s proposed standards with the stepwise approach are helpful in providing a framework for designing restoration projects that strive for maximizing multiple environmental benefits and avoiding trade-offs. Planning and subsequent monitoring of restoration projects along a restoration continuum allows for a typology of restoration activities that can guide implementation towards the best possible outcome in a given context. For the GEF, the creation of global environmental benefits while securing local livelihoods is paramount.”

Though the International Standards received broad review and fill an important gap in the field, SER recognizes that additional review and input are critically important for improving the content and substance of the document and for gaining international buy in and implementation. As such, SER considers the International Standards to be a living document, and we look forward to working with our partners and colleagues throughout the world to test, refine and strengthen the International Standards over time.

logo