Since 1990, our planet has lost over 80 million hectares of old-growth forest. 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900. And one million species are currently threatened with extinction. In Europe, nature is in serious, continuing decline. As much as 81% of the European Union’s habitats are in poor or bad condition.
For too long, much of humankind has had an unsustainable relationship with nature. Destructive activities such as intensive farming, fishing and forestry has led to its degradation. The consequences are both severe and wide-ranging. The extreme degradation of nature is driving extinctions, exacerbating the climate crisis, causing floods and droughts, eroding coastlines, damaging the economy, harming people’s well-being and enabling the emergence of zoonotic diseases.
Yet there’s reason for hope. Solutions exist. One of them is nature restoration.
What is nature restoration?
Nature restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has suffered degradation. It means bringing nature back for people and for wildlife. It’s the opposite of destruction: it’s healing and repair. Restoration can take many forms, from removing dams or invasive species, to reintroducing native vegetation. Restoration is on the political agendas of both Europe and the world.
We are currently at the very beginning of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, (2021-2030) which will be officially launching on World Environment Day on 5th June. Moreover, the European Union (EU) has committed to develop a proposal for legally binding restoration targets this year; and one of President von der Leyen’s top priorities is the European Green Deal, which aims to make the EU carbon-neutral by 2050.
Sharing stories of nature restoration and its benefits
Over the course of the next few months, we are going to take a deep dive into the many benefits of nature restoration with a written docu-series: the rewards of nature restoration. It will feature fascinating stories of large-scale nature restoration in Europe, and the people behind them. From northern grasslands to southern lakes, this series will not only show that restoring Europe is possible, but that at a large scale it holds enormous potential to meet some of the most pressing challenges of our time.
The wonderful thing about nature restoration is that it provides a vast array of benefits for people and wildlife: it helps improve the status of endangered species, counter the global climate emergency, prevent floods, and bring wider economic advantages.
Small changes have small impacts. Given the vastness of the biodiversity and climate crises, we need to go big. The science is clear: we need wide-reaching nature restoration now. Nature may be vulnerable, but its potential to recover is incredibly powerful, too.
Watch this space – we look forward to sharing the stories with you soon. To make sure you receive them, please sign up for news updates via our News page.
Episode 3: Restoring nature, restoring joy
Episode 4: Restoring nature puts food on the table
Episode 5: How restoring nature keeps the floods at bay
This article is part of the ‘Benefits of Restoring Europe’, a joint project run by BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, UNEP-WCMC and supported by the Endangered Landscapes Programme – with funding from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. The Endangered Landscapes Programme is managed by the Cambridge Conservation Initiative.
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