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Encouraging restoration practice and policy in Latin America

Wednesday, February 22, 2017   (0 Comments)
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Restoration practice and policy in Latin America countries may include some approaches that could support better socio-ecological outcomes and help fulfilling their international commitments.

Latin America countries have committed to international agreements, regulatory frameworks and supportive instruments to guide restoration. Unfortunately they lack a common view to address the needs and expectations of different stakeholders, the capacity of institutions and organizations to operate restoration at large-scales, and the special particularities of the high socio-ecological heterogeneity typical of the region.

“Restoration approaches in Latin America must be based in socio-economic and legal dimensions to accomplish a win-win agenda that maximizes both the social and ecological benefits of restoration,” says Dr. Paula Meli of the Department of Forest Sciences at the University of São Paulo. “Some guiding principles can help optimize the investment of limited economic resources to inform practice and policy for restoration.”

In an article for Restoration Ecology, the journal of the Society of Ecological Restoration, Dr. Meli and her team propose four approaches to guide restoration practice and policy in Latin America:

  1. Integrate biodiversity and ecosystem services into ecosystem restoration initiatives to define practices for restoration tailored to socio-ecological contexts. Trade-offs and synergies among multiple ecosystem services are not discussed in terms of ecological restoration and need to be bolstered. Meli’s team notes that some schemes such as payment for ecosystem services, REDD+ and biological corridors can be an incentive for restoration because they offer an opportunity to recover services and benefits, and have been successfully incorporated in some agendas. But to meet the needs of different stakeholders ecological, economic and social impacts must be clearly assessed and must also require monitoring and adaptive management to ensure biodiversity and services are enhanced.

  2. Evaluate, improve and disseminate ecological and economic cost-benefit relationships in different socio-ecological contexts to support national restoration plans. “To promote large-scale restoration in Latin America, it is critical we understand the economics issues related to restoration supply chains,” says Meli. “We need to draw management mechanisms at the landscape level, including analysis of the economic factors, to show the economic feasibility of the different approaches to restoration.” The researchers note that cost-benefit tradeoffs may also prevent wasting resources in approaches in which restoration outcomes are not compensated by investments and indicate alternative strategies to obtain the best results with the same funding.

  3. Approach restoration at national levels, but adapt to local-regional levels in a bottom-up perspective considering the frequent human-modified landscapes. Regions targeted for ecological restoration in Latin America are mostly comprised of fragmented landscapes in which protected areas, agricultural lands, smaller ecosystem remnants, urban zones and other land uses co-exist. These have direct impact on biodiversity, ecosystem services and human wellbeing. Successful restoration of these landscapes demand distinctive efforts in terms of time, costs and methodological approaches, because their biological and cultural diversity can show different responses to disturbances as well as to restoration interventions. A great opportunity for restoration in Latin America resides in the millions of hectares of very low productivity farming systems and in agricultural landscapes. The restoration of strategic ecosystems such as headwaters and riparian corridors could help in the transition from monoculture to agroecological production.

  4. Share knowledge in an accessible communication frameworks that is non-hierarchical or sectored. “We need to strengthen relationships among scientists and other stakeholders through training and capacity-building programs to involve multiple institutions and inform public policy,” Meli and her team point out. “To reduce tensions on social demands, we must be open to local and indigenous knowledge and expectancies through public participation in the scientific assessment processes. Expert knowledge, which is usually situated in a specific political and cultural context, could differ from the knowledge of local cultures established in or benefiting from natural ecosystems.”

The effectiveness of the many restoration programs promoted in Latin America rely on their integration with national and sub-national restoration frameworks and organizations.

These four approaches are not mutually exclusive and may help national restoration take the best advantage of the specific socio-ecological conditions of Latin America to support ecological restoration.

Paula Meli
Department of Forest Sciences
“Luiz de Queiroz” College of Agriculture, University of São Paulo
Piracicaba, 13430-918, Brazil

Meli P, F Herrera, F Melo, S Pinto, N Aguirre, K Musálem, C Minaverry, W Ramírez, PHS Brancalion. 2016. Four approaches to guide ecological restoration in Latin America. Restoration Ecology, doi:10.1111/rec.12473

Photo credit:
Pedro H.S. Brancalion
Finca Armenia, Valle del Cauca, Colombia

About Restoration Ecology
Restoration Ecology is the Society’s bi-monthly scientific and technical peer-reviewed journal published Edited by a distinguished international panel, the journal addresses global concerns and communicates them to researchers and practitioners throughout the world

About SER
The Society for Ecological Restoration is an international non-profit organization dedicated to promoting ecological restoration as a means of sustaining the diversity of life on Earth and re-establishing an ecologically healthy relationship between nature and culture.

Media Contact:
Marguerite Nutter
Membership and Communications Manager
Society for Ecological Restoration
202.299.9518 /