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Latest News: Updates from SER

Policy, Science, and Practice Update

Tuesday, June 23, 2020  
Posted by: Alexis Gibson
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This quarter's Policy, Science, and Practice Update is an excerpt from the May 2020 issue of SERNews.

Here are a few highlights of our progress and engagement to advance the policy, science, and practice of ecological restoration from February through mid-May 2020:


The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is turning into a touchstone for many of SER’s policy activities. For example, in April we submitted formal comments on the draft Strategy for implementing the UN Decade, and raised awareness and empowered SER members to engage in the open comment period through a policy update; you can see our update about the draft plan here, and our full submitted comments here. In addition, we have been meeting with a variety of potential collaborators around the world to discuss how the UN Decade can best be funded, designed, implemented, monitored, and evaluated.

SER’s Board Chair, Jim Hallett, was invited to participate in the UN Division for Sustainable Development Goals High Level Political Forum on protecting the planet and building resilience. This forum is related to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and they are seeking input from SER on how restoration fits into the agenda for an equitable and sustainable future. Jim also participated in that event as co-chair of the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration (GPFLR). Also, in that dual role, on May 15 Jim gave a webinar for the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management’s Ecosystem Restoration Thematic Section on the challenges of scaling up Forest and Landscape Restoration (FLR) over the next decade.

We continue to expand our partnerships and engage on policy in many arenas. The Forest Stewardship Council reached out to SER for our input regarding restoration-related revisions totheir certifications program. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) invited SER to participate in a meeting regarding an update of their strategic communications platform, the Global Land Outlook. SER’s International Policy Lead, George Gann, participated in a meeting in April, and we are continuing to work with UNCCD to understand how we can support this and other restoration work within their portfolio. We also continue to monitor and engage in the development of the post-2020 Biodiversity Framework of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.


SER continues to promote the International Principles and Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration, Second Edition, while also finding ways to increase their adoption and use. We are pleased to report that the updated International Standards have been downloaded more than 6,700 times through March 2020 (between the SER and Restoration Ecology websites), cited at least 16 times, and are currently ranked as the 14th most downloaded article published in Restoration Ecology. We are also working with a growing number of translators around the world, and we expect the French translation to be completed within the next few months. Finally, we are close to finalizing the update to our e-learning course, which is an essential part of our Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner (CERP) program, to make it consistent with the second edition of the International Standards.

SER is partnering with Curtin University (Australia) and Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech, China) to develop the first sector-based companion document to the Standards – this document will be focused on ecological restoration of mined areas. We are drafting the document now and are also convening industry and research advisory groups to support the process. SER’s International Network for Seed-based Restoration (INSR) thematic section has nearly completed a special issue of Restoration Ecology on Standards for Native Seeds in Ecological Restoration. The first paper in that issue is available for early view (Pedrini & Dixon 2020), and additional papers are in the process of acceptance. We have been in discussion with World Wildlife Fund-Spain to align their Standards for the Certification of Forest Ecosystem Restoration Projects with our International Standards, as well as potentially partnering to expand their scope.


SER’s Science and Policy Committee (SPC) completed a one-year strategic planning process to outline our broad science and policy objectives for the next ten years, in conjunction with the timing of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. We owe a huge thanks to SPC Chair Emily Gonzales for leading us through this virtual process and developing a great plan. The SER Board of Directors approved the plan at its March board meeting, and we are now in the process of developing a more specific two-year work plan to guide the SPC’s work from mid-2020 through mid-2022 concurrent with the 2020-2022 board term. Thanks to all of the SPC members – James Aronson, Kris DeCleer, Cristina Eisenberg, George Gann, Emily Gonzales, Cara Nelson, and Nancy Shaw – for their dedicated work to develop this plan.


We are pleased to report that the first issue of our new Restoration Ecology – Arid Lands Thematic Series will be available by late May or early June. We are also exploring how to offer a virtual symposium later this year focused on the topic of restoration in arid lands. [NOTE: Since the May issue of SERNews was released, the first issue of Restoration Ecology-Arid Lands was published and is currently available with full access.]


SER entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with two institutions in India to support delivery of a new university level course on ecological restoration: the Centre for Ecological Landscapes of the Dr. Bhanuben Nanavati College of Architecture for Women, and the nonprofit Junglescapes. The course was developed by SER Board member Ramesh Venkataraman of Junglescapes and was designed to introduce emerging professionals to the science behind the practice of ecological restoration. For more information on this program, see the May issue of SERNews.  


In response to COVID19, SER launched our Wednesday Webinar series on March 25. Every Wednesday for the last 9 weeks, we’ve worked with experts from the restoration community to deliver presentations focused on topics including wildlife crossings, urban river restoration, native plant materials selection, traditional ecological knowledge, and climate-smart restoration. More than 2,000 people have participated in the live events, and more than 600 have engaged with the presentations through recordings in our Webinar Library. While participation in SER’s live webinars is always free and open to members and nonmembers alike, the recorded sessions are normally a members-only benefit. With the Wednesday Webinar series, however, we are keeping all recordings from these presentations completely publicly accessible.

We are grateful to all of the webinar presenters who stepped up on short notice to share their knowledge with the broader restoration community and to help provide additional distance learning opportunities while people were confined under COVID19 quarantines. You can find more information about upcoming webinars here.  


We have been excited to see a continued high demand for the CERP program. At the end of 2019, we had 393 registered CERPs and CERPITs, and we received 86 new applications during the most recent application period that closed on May 15, 2020; part of this group of applicants is the second cohort of CERPITs from the SER partnership with Niagara College. As the CERP program grows, we are also qualification for employment in the restoration field (for example, Conservation Halton included CERP or other restoration certification as a requirement for a job application), and as a requirement for project Requests for Proposals (for example, RFPs from Washington DC and the State of California). We have also recently begun discussions with potential partners in California about how the CERP program could be expanded to incorporate both training and certificate status for the restoration workforce. We hope to have more details by the next issue of SERNews.


In 2019, SER began a partnership with the US National Park Service to develop and implement field-based restoration training workshops in 2020 and 2021. The first workshop – originally scheduled for May 2020, but postponed until at least September because of COVID19 – will focus on several US National Parks (battlefield memorials) in the mid- Atlantic region that provide an opportunity for important grassland restoration.

During the second quarter, SER started a new training endorsement program based on the International Standards. We are now reviewing two restoration training programs for endorsement, and we plan to have those endorsements finalized within the next few months.

SER-Australasia is in the process of developing a detailed training program to “operationalize” the SER Australia Standards (which are very closely tied to the updated International Standards). Led by Tein McDonald, a lead author on both the Australian and International Standards, we are hoping this will provide a great example for how similar programs can be built elsewhere.


Late last year, SER entered into a cooperative agreement with the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to develop and implement the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation Native Seed and Grassland Community Restoration Project in north central Montana. SER board member Cristina Eisenberg is the Principle Investigator on this multi-year project, with the first field season ready to start in June. The project is modeled on her successful project in Alberta, Canada, with the Kainai First Nation (see the May issue of SERNews for more information). The field-based portion of the project has been re-designed, at least for the first year, due to COVID19, but we are pleased that we will still be able to have a field season and collect data this year.