Mapping the funding landscape for restoration in Europe

Posted: 9th July 2020

Photo credit: © Zafer Kizilkaya

As we grapple with the so-called ‘twinned crises’ of biodiversity loss and climate breakdown, there is an increasing recognition that it is not enough to simply conserve our ecological, economic and societal systems. Indeed, the upcoming UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) is expected to act as a catalyst for restoring what has been lost and to set ambitious targets and commitments for recovery. To meet these objectives, there will need to be a matched increase in both the availability of funding for restoration and its coordination.

It is therefore important to first understand the current funding ‘landscape’ of projects carrying out large-scale restoration. Unfortunately, the information available for how funding is currently allocated across projects (considering the European perspective of the ELP) is dispersed and not easily accessible. This provides a challenge for understanding if funding is being used in the most efficient way to ensure coverage of the priority species, habitats and regions in Europe.

To address this challenge, an ELP-funded project entitled “Mapping the Funding Landscape for Restoration in Europe” aims to collate this information and provide a clear evidence base for decision-making for donors and practitioners moving forward. The project is led by United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and Fauna & Flora International (FFI).

Hazel Thornton, Marine Programme Office UNEP-WCMC says, “With 77% of European ecosystems degraded or deteriorating, understanding trends in current funding allocations can help inform future prioritisation to efficiently restore our land and seascapes”.

With the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration beginning in 2021 and an increasing interest in nature-based solutions to climate change, the restoration agenda is at a pivotal moment. Photo credit: Liesje Birchenough / Fauna & Flora International.

UNEP-WCMC and FFI’s combined expertise of policy and on-the-ground conservation work makes for a strong partnership. UNEP-WCMC strives to connect policy and decision-makers to the data they need in order to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity, whilst FFI works with local partners to protect biodiversity on the ground, conserving threatened species and ecosystems worldwide with solutions that are sustainable, based on sound science, and integrate human needs.

UNEP-WCMC have previously implemented a similar project for coral reefs – the Coral Reef Funding Landscape project – which explored how international funding was allocated for sustainable management of coral reefs and related ecosystems. Through their global analysis, the team were able to demonstrate the value of generating a large and representative database of projects for analysis, providing a clear and comprehensive summary of their findings, as well as linking this evidence base to current and upcoming global, and regional, targets.

Now with funding from the ELP, this project is exploring a range of different aspects related to ecosystem restoration across Europe in the context of funding allocations. They are asking questions such as – who provides and receives funding? Are there ecosystem or regional trends in allocations of funding? Are there clear gaps and/or opportunities? From their preliminary analysis, they have already gained valuable insights into how funding could be prioritised at the national and regional scale in the future.

Through desk-based online searches, the team have collected detailed project and funding information for over 400 European terrestrial and marine restoration projects implemented since 2010. However, not all projects disclose their funding information online or provide enough project information, meaning that some projects could not be included in the database. Although the database contains high quality data which provides a strong, representative evidence base for our analysis, their research has not been exhaustive. To strengthen this evidence base, they are planning to update the project information in late 2020.

Building on the success of their Coral Reef Funding Landscape project, UNEP-WCMC are working with FFI to demystify the funding landscape for restoration in Europe. Photo credit: Juan Pablo Moreiras / Fauna & Flora International.

Harriet Harthan, Senior Programme Development Manager at FFI welcomes further input to the project: “With the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration beginning in 2021, we welcome further contributions to this online database to help practitioners, managers, funders and policy makers moving forward.”

By providing an overview of funding trends across Europe, the project team hopes that donors and decision makers will be able to identify and address gaps, opportunities and priorities for restoration. The team hope this will, in turn, support implementation of more effective restoration of degraded marine, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems and ecosystem services. The project also highlights the importance of better coordination of funding, and helps inform prioritisation of funding at the local, national and regional scale.

The online database will also allow restoration practitioners to search completed and ongoing restoration projects by different categories – such as ecosystem type, country and funding source – which is hoped will lead to increased cooperation between practitioners working within similar regions or ecosystems, as well as improved awareness of funding opportunities. A summary brochure will also be made available to provide practitioners and policymakers with a better understanding of trends and opportunities, particularly in terms of communicating restoration goals.

In short, this project aims to maximise the increased attention and funding that the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is likely to bring, and harness these resources to ensure we take every opportunity to restore Europe’s most treasured land and seascapes.

This project is one of four Enabling Projects approved for ELP funding in 2019. Building on the expertise within the Cambridge Conservation Initiative partnership, the aim of these projects is to overcome barriers to landscape-scale restoration in Europe, through building capacity and developing new knowledge, tools and evidence.

If you would like to contribute project data from your restoration projects, please get in touch at

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