A beginner’s guide to ecosystem restoration

Credit: UN Environment / Lisa Murray, Credit: UN Environment

It’s a phrase that’s been on the lips of scientists, officials and environmental activists a lot in the last few months: ecosystem restoration. This year, 5 June, World Environment Day, marks the official launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a 10-year push to halt and reverse the  decline of the natural world.

You might be wondering: what exactly is an ecosystem and how do you restore one?

To answer the first question an ecosystem is a place where plants, animals and other organisms, in conjunction with the landscape around them, come together to form the web of life.

Ecosystems can be large, like a forest, or small, like a pond. Many are crucial to human societies, providing people with water, food, building materials and a host of other essentials. They also provide planet-wide benefits like climate protection and biodiversity conservation.

But in recent decades, humanity’s hunger for resources has pushed many ecosystems to the breaking point.

Here are the eight main types of ecosystem and some of the things that can be done to revive them. For more ideas on how to boost your local ecosystems and join #GenerationRestoration, see the UN Decade’s Eosystem Restoration Playbook – a practical guide to restoring the planet.

Farmlands

Over-intensive use, soil erosion, excess fertilizer and pesticides are exhausting many farmlands. Ways to restore them include reducing tillage, using more natural fertilizer and pest control, and growing more diverse crops, including trees. These steps can rebuild carbon stores in soils, making them more fertile so countries can feed their growing populations without using even more land. The restoration of farmland also creates habitats for wildlife.

Did you know? Nitrogen from fertilizers used in industrial agriculture not only pollutes air and water, it also helps drive climate change.

Forests

Forests and trees are being cleared to feed humanity’s hunger for land and resources. Logging, firewood cutting, pollution, invasive pests and wildfires are damaging what remains. Restoring forest ecosystems means replanting and reducing the pressure on forests so that trees re-grow naturally. Food systems are a major driver of forest loss. Read more…

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