Contributed by James Hallett, Treasurer, Society for Ecological Restoration
Nearly all countries in the world have endorsed the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), recognizing that biodiversity and the biological systems on which humans depend for both social and economic development are in great jeopardy. The CBD holds biennial “Conference of the Parties” (COP) meetings, during which time they adopt resolutions and formal decisions to help guide resource management in signatory countries. At CBD COP 10, signatories adopted a Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 that included the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Aichi Targets 14 and 15, in particular, call for restoring and safeguarding ecosystems that provide essential services, and restoring a minimum of 15% of degraded ecosystems by 2020, respectively. These are tall orders, but are on par with other ambitious efforts including the Bonn Challenge to restore 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded lands by 2020. Despite the great need, the “mainstreaming” of ecological restoration is moving slowly in many jurisdictions because of a lack of guidance to agencies and organizations tasked with this work.
Capacity-building workshops provide one avenue for disseminating information on implementation and benefits of ecological restoration. Over an approximately 12-month period from late 2015 through late 2016, SER Ambassadors contributed restoration expertise to CBD capacity-building workshops in West Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. In 2015, the CBD Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) advanced the need to provide specific guidance to all of the CBD Parties in support of the restoration activities under the Aichi Targets, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and other initiatives. The Secretariat of the CBD asked SER to assist in the development of a short-term action plan on ecosystem restoration. The plan was drafted in early 2016 and submitted for review at SBSTAA 20 in May 2016, where SER chair, Al Unwin, intervened in support of the action plan. In December 2016, at CBD COP 13 in Cancun, Mexico, Parties to the Convention adopted the plan. (available here in several languages).
The short-term action plan aims to promote the restoration of a spectrum of degraded ecosystems to stem the loss of biodiversity. At the same time, it seeks to ensure ecosystem resilience, improved ecosystem services, improved human well-being, and other benefits. The plan is meant to assist the Parties to the Convention, as well as other organizations, in both accelerating and upscaling restoration. The plan includes four key activities: (1) assessment and prioritization of restoration opportunities, (2) improving the institutional enabling environment to ensure appropriate legal, policy, and financial structures are supportive of restoration, (3) adequate planning and implementation of restoration, and (4) establishing monitoring for evaluation of restoration, adaptive management, and sharing of results. SER’s International Standards for the Practice Ecological Restoration, launched at CBD COP 13, both support and amplify the CBD’s Short-term Action Plan on Ecosystem Restoration.