Ambitious Restoration Strategy outlined at SERE symposium
Key proposals for a Restoration Strategy based were laid out in a symposium held at the Society for Ecological Restoration (SERE, Europe Chapter) in Alicante on 9th September.
Titled “Large scale rewilding across Europe: overcoming challenges to achieve a historic opportunity“, the symposium suggested ambitious objectives and called for extensive reforms to achieve these.
It was headed by Ladislav Miko, lead environmental advisor to the current EC Presidency and Wild Europe trustee. Toby Aykroyd of Wild Europe coordinated the event with Kris Decleer of SERE Council and there was further keynote participation from Erika Stanciu, Vice Chair of WCPA, Chair of Wild Europe, and Cara Nelson, Chair of the IUCN Ecosystem Thematic Group.
The symposium’s proposals ranged widely cross the spectrum of habitat types and conservation modes. They included:
- Non-intervention management through natural processes to be a core default element in restoration and ‘strict protection’ of 10% of the EU terrestrial and maritime territory: to secure cost-effective conservation, effective protection of dependent species, mitigation, resilience and adaptation to climate change, with scale delivery of quality ecosystem services
- Strict protection of primary/old growth forest, involving a ban on all extractive activity, to be extended to 15% of European forest cover – enabling consolidation of fragmented remnants, effective ecosystem function, buffering and connectivity; wherever possible this will be based on recovery through natural regeneration for the c 12% needing restoration.
- The interface between areas with conservation governed solely by natural processes and those where conservation is actively managed (secondary habitats such as grasslands, healthlands, silvopastoral landscapes, together with individual endangered species) to be carefully identified, specified, and enacted; this includes initial intervention where needed followed by long-term set aside.
- The above proposals to be implemented through multi-sector cooperation based on reformed grants for protection & restoration, together with a fully activated
Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) agenda and emphasis on securing long-term protection.
Close alignment with EU plans
The proposals are designed to be supportive of the necessarily far-reaching EU Biodiversity and Forest Strategies, and relate to emerging elements for the forthcoming EU Restoration Law – as well as linking to requests by conservation networks more generally.
The call for non-intervention management as a default within the definition of ‘strict protection echoes the representations of the European Habitat Forum on the Biodiversity Strategy produced in May 2019.
Equally, Resolution 127 at IUCN Marseilles in 2021 called for a ban on logging and extraction generally as a key element in stronger support for protection & restoration of primary/old growth forest. This was backed by a massive vote of 674 members, 93 of whom category A – ie including governments; it is in turn based on Wild Europe’s 2018 Old Growth Forest Protection Strategy.
The need for far-reaching reforms
The symposium welcomed the extra funding to be made available by the EU for biodiversity targets. However far-reaching reforms are still needed, against a backdrop of growing climate crisis ,with the main 2020 Biodiversity Strategy targets missed and 81% of habitats and 63% of species in poor conservation status.
Among further proposals from the symposium:
- A systematic strengthening in the capacity of the conservation sector for economic valuation, enterprise management, financial procurement and lobbying specialisms was cited as a key requirement – at all strategic and operational levels. This is felt essential, to strengthen rather than supplant traditional conservation approaches, if the EU Strategies are to be adequately funded and win out against competitive or damaging land use practices.
- More immediately, there is a requirement for carefully collated restoration targets: per country, area and habitat type – with sequential milestones up to 2050. These should be based on clearly formulated baseline and achievement goals, aiming to maximise both the extent of ecosystem renovation and of the total areas involved.
- Adoption of SERE principles of restoration has a crucial role to play here, bringing together stakeholders, identifying common ground and setting clear goals along a continuum of restorative activity – in both strictly protected and protected areas.
- Clearer linkage is also needed in practical planning to address the twin climate change and biodiversity crises – focused on a joint UNFCC/CBD approach, reflected at national and local level.
- One element of this is a costed strategy to abolish climate-damaging subsidies for commercial scale forest bioenergy, and reallocate these to genuine renewables, conservation of carbon absorbent landscapes and measures to reduce emissions and boost the green economy
The overall Restoration Strategy is being finalized. It draws substantially off Wild Europe’s 2020 Action Plan and will include inputs provided by the Symposium audience after the presentations on 9th September.
For further information read
Large scale rewilding across Europe: Can we overcome challenges to achieve a historic opportunity? Ladislav Miko, Ministry of Environment, Czech Republic; lead environmental advisor to current EU Presidency; former Chairman, now trustee, Wild Europe Foundation
Let nature do the job. Large-scale spontaneous regeneration: where and where not? Kris Decleer, SERE Council; Senior Researcher Research Institute for Nature and Forest Belgium
An effective supporting strategy for successful rewilding strategy, Erika Stanciu, Chair of Wild Europe Foundation, Vice Chair WCPA Europe. Founder of ProPark Foundation and former President Europarc Foundation
EU Conservation and Restoration Strategies: Insights from a Global Perspective, Cara Nelson, Chair of the Ecosystem Thematic Group for IUCN
Funding a restoration strategy: the need for extensive reform, Toby Aykroyd, Director of Wild Europe Foundation, trustee European Nature Trust, FCC Romania and Rewilding Britain