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Letter from SER Executive Director Bethanie Walder

Volume 33 Issue 2 | July 2018
Water Resilience


Dear SER Members,

I was at a meeting in mid-June when a colleague commented that restoration is no longer optional, but a matter of survival. I couldn’t agree more, and the urgency of the situation was painfully clear during a trip to the Middle East in April, where I visited restoration and mitigation projects and explored the incredible challenges of restoration in drylands ecosystems. Restoration is no longer optional in severely degraded landscapes with limited water security. Restoration is no longer optional in forest ecosystems that are nearing (or perhaps have already crossed) their tipping points during which the system could unravel. Restoration is no longer optional because conservation alone is not enough – even protected areas are degrading because they are too small, they are too heavily impacted by climate change, and/or they are too heavily impacted by external factors. Restoration is one of the most important steps we can take to ensure that people can continue to survive, and thrive, on Planet Earth.

In the context of survival, restoration through reforestation gets a lot of attention for its potential to sequester carbon and help slow the pace of climate change, but what about other types of restoration and other benefits? This issue of SERNews explores several different ways through which ecological restoration is improving water supply and/or water security – a topic that is incredibly important to all of our members and partners not just in arid parts of the world, like the Middle East, but in parts of the world experiencing increasingly frequent and intense droughts, like Cape Town, South Africa. In these areas, restoration is no longer optional… it is a matter of survival. And I’m thrilled to announce that we’ll be exploring these topics and much, much more in Cape Town, South Africa, at SER2019, our 8th World Conference on Ecological Restoration. Our conference website will be going live shortly, as will our first calls for symposia and workshops. So please put September 22-27, 2019 on your calendar and start planning now to join us in South Africa next year!

To give you a taste of the issue of water and restoration, please check out the three featured articles in this issue of SERNews – highlighting three different approaches to ecological restoration as a nature-based solution to challenging water problems. We start with an article from Sarah Polonsky and some of our conference partners in South Africa at the Working for Water program. The South Africa article focuses on the role of invasive species in changing water availability and supply – particularly water-hungry species that use much more water than natives – and the program that is engaging, training and employing local people to restore these systems.

The second article comes from Silvio Ferraz, at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, ESALQ campus. Sao Paulo, Brazil experienced a crippling drought in 2014, similar to the continuing drought in Cape Town. As a result of the drought, Silvio began a new research program to assess the link between forest restoration and water supply. His article looks closely at the forest hydrologic cycle, the inter-relationship between forests and soils, and impacts to water supply. And the final article, from Sarah Bates of the National Wildlife Federation in the U.S. takes yet a third approach to restoration for water supply. Sarah focuses on the role of the beaver as an ecosystem engineer – creating dams, ponds, and other water impoundments that have ripple effects throughout the system, ultimately increasing landscape-level water storage capacity. Reintroducing beavers to restore watershed function is an increasingly important and recognized restoration tool.

The diversity of approaches highlighted in these three articles illustrates that a broad range of opportunities exists for improving water supply and security. While they don’t necessarily address the types of challenges that are being faced in the severely degraded lands of the Middle East and beyond, they do give us hope that new and creative approaches to restoration have the potential to help us deliver high quality, effective, and engaging nature-based solutions to these complex and confounding problems.

All the best,

Bethanie Walder

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