Fighting the climate crisis through landscape restoration

Posted: 11th November 2022


The 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (CoP27) is currently taking place in Egypt. As the climate crisis stands at the forefront of the world stage, the ELP showcases how the projects that we support are improving resilience of both nature and people to climate change and mitigating its effects. 

Rising temperatures caused by ‘greenhouse gasses’ such as carbon dioxide are already causing a profound impact on our landscapes and the organisms that live within them. The climate crisis is causing and accelerating issues including flooding, drought, extinctions, spread of invasive species, and sea level rise. Ambitious landscape-scale restoration projects funded by the Endangered Landscapes Programme support global efforts to mitigate these impacts and improve resilience to change. This in turn will contribute to the commitments of over 70 countries, including the EU nations, to become net zero by 2050.

Terrestrial and marine environments, and the organisms that inhabit them are essential to sequestering carbon and therefore regulating the Earth’s temperature. On the land, forests absorb carbon from the air, storing it in the biomass of trees. Other habitats like wetlands and peat bogs are also essential to carbon sequestration and storage. In marine environments, macroalgae and seagrass beds perform a similar function. Animals play a part in this as ecosystem engineers, contributing to the overall functioning of the ecosystem. In order to effectively sequester and store carbon, these ecosystems must be healthy.

A herd of around 8 horses stand in a marsh.

Each element of an ecosystem contributes to the sequestration and storage of greenhouse gasses. Photo: Maxim Yakovlev.

Nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation and ecosystem restoration

The ELP aims to quantify the potential contribution projects to climate change mitigation and identify how each project could increase their carbon sequestration and storage benefits, while still achieving their core biodiversity goals. The work, undertaken by the RSPB and UNEP-WCMC, demonstrates that emissions reductions and improved carbon storage and sequestration can be a significant co-benefit of biodiversity conservation.

At the landscape scale, a variety of habitats and management practices can all contribute to reducing emissions and sequestering carbon alongside conserving biodiversity whilst providing socio-economic opportunities for local communities. The analysis demonstrated that both the restoration activities undertaken to date and the work planned for the future could have substantial positive impacts on the climate, both through reducing emissions and sequestering carbon as a result of land use and management changes. Find the full report on our resources page.

Biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation are fundamentally connected, and landscape restoration can play a role in addressing both. Conservation driven landscape restoration projects, such as the ELP, can benefit wildlife, local communities and contribute to global climate change mitigation targets.

– Megan Critchley, Programme Officer at UNEP-WCMC.

Waterfall through some coniferous trees.

Restoring landscapes can have multiple benefits, including increasing carbon sequestration and storage potential. Photo: Dan Dinu.

Putting invasive species on the menu in Turkey

Restoration Landscape Project Gökova Bay to Cape Gelidonya is responding to the impacts of invasive, non-native species, numbers of which are being exacerbated by climate change. One of their approaches is to encourage their harvesting by marketing them as exciting new menu items.

Fish dish on green sauce placed on black plate.

Through marketing invasive species as exciting new menu items, the project hopes to decrease numbers of these non-native fish and boost local economies. Photo: AKD.

We have been monitoring seawater temperature vertically from the surface to 40 meters depth with temperature loggers every five meters. Results are eye opening as every year since 2015 rising water temperature pushes the cold water line (called the thermocline) deeper and deeper. In summer time it is 28oC to 30oC down below 35-40 meters depth, where it used to be 19-22oC. This creates serious thermal stress on coralligenous sessile organisms like corals and sponges with mass mortality events in different species every year.

The increasing water temperature helps invasive species to thrive and increase their range further. In 2018 an invasive protozoa from the Red Sea triggered mass mortality of the noble pen shell or fan mussel Pinna nobilis, which is now extinct along the Turkish Mediterranean coast. The IUCN has now changed the conservation status of Pinna nobilis to ‘Critically Endangered’. Lionfish first appeared in 2011 and now they cover the entire Turkish Mediterranean coast. Similarly, pufferfish, Lagocephalus sceleratus, first appeared in 2003 and are now the biggest nuisance for fishers and ecosystems. Finally, an invasive long-spine sea urchin, Diadema setosum, covers all the coastal bottom and threatens not only other marine animals but also swimmers, fishers, and divers with their venomous spines. 

– Zafer Kızılkaya, President of the Mediterranean Conservation Society.

Boat on a rocky arid coast, with a solar panel on the shore.

Monitoring efforts show rising water temperatures year after year in the Turkish Mediterranean. Photo: AKD.

Restoring peat bogs in the Cairngorms

Peat bogs are crucial carbon stores but are vulnerable to degradation, which causes them to release the carbon that they have stored back to the atmosphere. Cairngorms Connect is restoring and protecting these fragile peatlands and bog woodlands through removing plantations, blocking drains, and creating dams to rewet the area.

Aerial view of 2 diggers on a peat bog.

Cairngorms Connect are actively working to restore peat bogs, which will allow them to absorb and store carbon more effectively. Photo:

One of the three main focuses of the Cairngorms Connect partnership’s practical restoration work is peatland restoration. There’s around 10,000 acres of peatland within the partnership area. Most of this is high altitude blanket bog – at 700m above sea level. At lower altitudes (250m above sea level), we have a scattering of amazing forest bog habitats, as well as riparian fen.  Much of this has been damaged by a combination of overgrazing, drainage and planting with non-native conifers – impacts we are now reversing, through peatland restoration across the Cairngorms Connect area. 

Damaged peatlands aren’t great at storing water – when gaps appear in the protective layer of surface vegetation, the bare peat degrades and erodes, creating drainage channels which further speed up the loss of water from the site. This has negative consequences, from increased flood risk downstream, to peat erosion. Because peat is a great store of carbon, any degradation or erosion generates carbon emissions. 

With funding from the Endangered Landscapes Programme and Peatland Action, via the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Cairngorms Connect is creating dams in damaged peatlands to retain water within the bog, which helps the vegetation to regrow, and prevents water rushing straight off the hill in fast gullies. We’re also working to restore 800 ha of bog woodland – a rare habitat here in Scotland, and not widely understood. Cairngorms Connect partners have been working to restore areas of bog woodland, by blocking old drains to rewet boggy areas and removing plantations for restoration to bog woodland.

Sydney Henderson, Communications and Involvement Manager at Cairngorms Connect.

Peat bogs with dramatic hills in the background.

Eroded peat bogs can cause flooding downstream. Photo:

Globally, landscape restoration can play a key role in tackling the twin climate and biodiversity crises. The Endangered Landscapes Programme helps to facilitate this through funding large-scale restoration projects in Europe, providing Planning Grants to catalyse future restoration efforts, and working with Advancing and Applying Knowledge partners to explore innovative methods to tie climate mitigation with economic benefits.

To read more about ELP-supported projects, please visit our projects page

View all News