Ecosystem restoration crucial

T. V. Padma

T. V. Padma
South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net

Ecosystem restoration received attention at a side-event today (17 Oct),  culminating with a Hyderabad call for ‘concerted effort on ecosystem restoration’ in the evening. It urges governments, donors, international organisations and banks and local communities to mobilise resources for and engage in ecosystem restoration.

Ecological restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed. It contributes to three UN conventions – on biological diversity; climate change; and combating desertification, besides wetlands.

Ecosystem restoration is crucial, says the Hyderabad Call for concerted efforts on ecosystem restoration. Photo credit: J M Garg, Wikipedia

“It (ecosystem restoration) is a win-win-win situation,” said CBD executive secretary Braulio Dias.

Restoration is crucial given that 30% of forests are destroyed and 20%  degraded; 50% of grasslands are degraded; over 50% of mangroves destroyed; and more than 75% of coral reefs degraded, destroyed, or under threat.

Researchers and practitioners around the world have gained tremendous knowledge of ecosystems, which can be restored with only small amounts of interventions, says James Aronson, from CNRS, France and Missouri Botanical Garden, USA.

Case studies of successful ecosystem restoration in Brazil, Colombia, India and South Africa were also shared.

These include Brazil’s PACTO initiate, under which a collective of government agencies, NGOs, and private institutes, are working together to restore 15 million hectares of degraded the Brazilian Atlantic Forest by 2050. Of which they have achieved 10% of their target.

Another is India’s successful restoration of Chilika Lake in its east, a unique ecosystem connecting freshwater bodies to the Bay of Bengal sweaters, and home to a unique range of freshwater and marine species.

And in Colombia, a six-year-old project is restoring the mountain ecosystem, while South Africa is working degraded land, wetlands, and clearing land and water bodies,  especially riverine areas and mountain catchment areas,  of invasive alien species that are a major threat in the country.

Restoration is never a justification for damage, nor is it a substitute for conservation, says Aronson who has called for an international network for long-term ecological restoration sites, representing all the ecological types round the world.

Aronson says one should look at benefit-cost ratios, which range from 5 for marine and coastal areas to 25 for woodlands and grasslands and 3-17 for forests. Costs alone, restoring coral reefs is estimated to cost US$ 100,000 per hectare, grasslands US$ 100 to US$1000, and tropical forests US$ 6000.

So, are nature conservation and ecological restoration anti- economic development? “No. That’s a false dichotomy,” says Aronson.

This blog post is part of our coverage on COP 11 Convention on Biological Diversity — which takes place 8–19 October 2012. 

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