Bringing nature back: new report showcases five powerful European ecosystem restoration projects

Posted: 13th December 2022

Photo: FFI

Released today at the UN biodiversity summit COP15, a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, shows in detail what benefits can be derived from ecosystem restoration, for both nature and people.

The benefits of ecosystem restoration: an analysis of five European Restoration Initiatives report reveals how degraded ecosystems in Europe are being restored by the efforts of organisations, local communities and governments. Each location faces its own challenges but the tactics being employed in the five locations are similar. More importantly, they are working.

Two Endangered Landscape Programme-funded restoration projects are showcased in the report: the Danube Delta in Ukraine, Romania and Moldova and Gökova Bay to Cape Gelidonya in Turkey. The other three projects analysed are the Altyn Dala Initiative in Kazakhstan, the Carpathian Mountains Initiative, and the Five European Seas Initiative covering the Baltic, Black, Caspian, Mediterranean and the North-East Atlantic Seas. The benefits of these initiatives are multiple, ranging from boosting biodiversity to climate change mitigation and adaptation, to socio-economic benefits, including benefits to vulnerable communities.

Aerial view of Dalyan wetland and Iztuzu beach, Fethiye Turkey.

The report explores the benefits of ecosystem restoration using both marine and terrestrial case studies. Photo: FFI.

In Europe and elsewhere, there are many ecosystems that are degraded and could benefit from restoration. Ecosystem restoration has an important role to play in meeting the global and national goals of halting biodiversity loss and cutting greenhouse gases emissions. It has been estimated that ecosystem restoration could avoid 60 percent of expected extinctions globally and sequester up to 10 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe. Restoration can achieve these goals while also providing economic and social wellbeing for people. The UN has estimated that restoring 350 million hectares of degraded land between now and 2030 could generate USD 9 trillion in ecosystem services.

Despite all the projected benefits, restoration has been slow on the ground. It has been difficult to start new projects and to scale up existing ones to larger areas with increased capacity and funding. Today’s new report aims to support the acceleration of much needed restoration work across Europe by providing inspirational examples of the many benefits that restoration can achieve.

Two Konik horses and a foal in a marshy area.

The ELP-supported Danube Delta and Gökova Bay to Cape Gelidonya projects are used as two of five case studies in the new report. Photo: Andrey Nekrasov.

The report also identifies a set of important enabling factors that promote restoration, including defining clear outcomes and monitoring. It also identifies the support that policymakers and government agencies can provide to restoration and how restoration initiatives can support governments. Capacity building and engaging local communities is also critical as socio-economic benefits are key for the long-term sustainability of restoration initiatives.

The report is accompanied by a policy brief, The benefits of ecosystem restoration Eleven Lessons Learned from an Analysis of Five European Restoration Initiatives detailing the lessons learned and what policymakers can do to support restoration initiatives.

To read the full report, please visit the UNEP-WCMC website. To find out more about the Gökova Bay to Cape Gelidonya and Danube Delta projects, please visit our project pages

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