In the rush for landscape restoration goals, let’s not forget about biodiversity
The global momentum for restoration has never been greater. With ambitious targets like the Bonn Challenge, New York Declaration and those set by the Convention on Biological Diversity, plus billions of dollars invested annually, countries all over the world are rapidly moving forward with Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) initiatives as a way to address ecosystem conservation, sustainable development and climate goals.
But even with forest ecosystems as a central focus for restoration in many countries, biodiversity has not received adequate attention in plans and action to meet global targets, according to a group of experts who took part in a forum on biodiversity and FLR held in Foz do Iguazu, Brazil, convened by the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) CEM Thematic Group.
During a full day of discussions, participants representing some of the most active organizations in landscape restoration science and practice agreed that there is a clear need to expand the decision space for FLR to include a wider range of ecosystem components in the evaluation of restoration needs. They noted that several national policies, associated incentives and monitoring actions that aim to meet restoration targets do not always favor biodiversity-friendly outcomes.
There is need for additional guidance for restoration plans, standards and policies that encourage consideration of biodiversity, but the question remains: How do we get to a place where we work to achieve land commitments, commercial reforestation and carbon objectives, while also achieving biodiversity objectives?
Forests News talked to five of experts and asked them for thoughts and recommendations for addressing biodiversity in FLR commitments.
While the agreements and agendas set by many of the countries in the world represent a great opportunity for landscape restoration, there is potential to create perverse incentives which focus on land objectives at the cost of biological diversity, according to Bethanie Walder, SER Executive Director.
“There is a lot of complexity around reforestation and we need to ensure that we don’t use these opportunities to put forests where they never existed before,” says Walder. “We do not want to take a beautifully intact savanna and turn it into a forest to meet our forest targets and, in the process, actually degrade other ecosystems. That would be the antithesis of what we want to accomplish.”
She adds that a possible way to avoid that scenario would be a type of foundation underneath different FLR initiatives, such as a set of international standards, which would ensure that activities and agreements would also include biodiversity objectives.
Walder also highlights a need for capacity building: “There is still not a common language or common understanding on what is and what is not restoration. So, having standards, having more capacity building and knowledge sharing among the people developing the programs to achieve these objectives is the way we can ensure they also achieve biodiversity outcomes.”