United Nations Announces UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration

The United Nations embarks on a decade of ecosystem restoration that will fuel and accelerate current restoration projects throughout the world.

Imagine, an entire decade dedicated to the restoration of precious ecosystem health and the resurgence of biodiversity. A project that builds upon ongoing restoration efforts like the Bonn Challenge; a lofty restoration initiative aiming to restore 350 million hectares of degraded ecosystems by the year 2030. Well, there is no need to simply imagine, because on March 1st, 2019, the United Nations General Assembly declared its UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. A 10-year period focused on improving ecosystem health and acceleration of ongoing restoration efforts worldwide. 

Restored corridor in Itapu as part of the Bonn Challenge. Credit: CIFOR

It might surprise you to learn that due to the adverse impacts of depletion, erosion, and pollution, about 20% of the arable land on the planet is showing a reduction in fertility and agricultural viability. Not only does this impact plant, animal, and soil health, but it adversely affects the well-being of some 3.2 billion people whose livelihoods depend on this land. In fact, if the trends continue as they have been, by 2050 crop yields could reduce by 10% on a global scale, and by as much as 50% in specific regions. José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) commented:

Ecosystems are being degraded at an unprecedented rate. Our global food systems and the livelihoods of many millions of people depend on all of us working together to restore healthy and sustainable ecosystems for today and the future.”

Degraded land in Indonesia. Credit: CIFOR

In deepening our understanding of these issues, it is important to acknowledge how inextricably tied and connected ecosystem health is with climate change and the presence of invasive species. Climate change has the power to degrade soil health, as does an invasive species proliferating and running rampant in an ecosystem not adapted to its presence. In areas that are bearing the greatest brunt of climate change, it is also easier for an invasive species to take hold. That is why the UN’s proposed restoration project so important.

The project, a marriage between the UN Environment and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), intends to restore 350 million hectares of degraded land between now and 2030. This astonishing feat alone has the potential to general USD 9 trillion in ecosystem services as well as remove anywhere from 13-26 gigatons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme commented on this fantastic new development: 

UN Environment and FAO are honored to lead the implementation of the Decade with our partners.”

The research tells us over two billion hectares of the worlds degraded ecosystems show the potential for restoration. It appears there will be no shortage of opportunities for the UN’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration to start making a lasting impact.  

The hope this provides for the future of our planet, and all of the species that reside within it, is immeasurable. We have a lot of work still ahead of us, but the future is bright for ecosystem restoration.  

Source: UN Environment
Featured Photo: Antipodes Island Credit: Island Conservation

About Stephanie Dittrich

Stephanie Dittrich is a current senior in Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz and a transfer student from De Anza College. She is also currently pursuing a Certificate of Achievement in Geospatial Technologies and a second Associates Degree in Graphic Design from Foothill College. She has worked in multiple marketing and design focused roles at environmental nonprofits as well as the Genomics Institute at UC Santa Cruz. She just finished spending 3 months in Costa Rica conducting field work where she did an independent research project and wrote a scientific paper about flight response time in the Morpho peleides butterfly. In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys working on creative photography and design projects, often centered around wildlife photography, as well as more experimental and contemporary subject matter.

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