The United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 is a rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature. It is led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration following a proposal and resolution for action by over 70 countries from all latitudes. It is a rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature. It aims to halt the degradation of ecosystems, and restore them to achieve global goals. Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change, and stop the collapse of biodiversity.
The UN Decade runs from 2021 through 2030, which is also the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals and the timeline scientists have identified as the last chance to prevent catastrophic climate change. Led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the UN Decade is building a strong, broad-based global movement to ramp up restoration and put the world on track for a sustainable future. That will include building political momentum for restoration as well as thousands of initiatives on the ground.
As the Decade will shape the environment for current and future generations, it is vital that young people’s perspectives and feelings about ecosystems and biodiversity are taken into account. In this sense, the UNEP Europe Office has developed a survey for youth (available in 22 languages), specifically addressed at European and Central Asian people aged 13-18 years old. It aims to find out what their knowledge and expectations are regarding ecosystem restoration in their country and region.
10 years to restore our planet. 10 actions that count. Every single day.
Against a backdrop of environmental crisis, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is a chance to revive the natural world that supports us all. A decade may sound like a long time. But it is these next ten years that scientists say will count most in the fight to avert climate change and the loss of millions of species. Here are ten actions in the strategy of the UN Decade that can build a #GenerationRestoration.
1. Empower a Global Movement
The UN Decade’s overarching goal is to stop and reverse the destruction and degradation of billions of hectares of ecosystems. It is a daunting task. It gets even more complicated given the immense diversity of ecosystems and the threats they are facing: from lush forests threatened by land-grabbers and wildfires to agricultural soils so eroded that they may only carry a few more years of harvests. No single entity can steer the course in this endeavour. The UN Decade is therefore designed to connect and empower the actions of the many. Groups and individuals can get informed about restoration opportunities in their area. They can join an initiative already underway or start their own.
2. Finance Restoration on the Ground
Restoration takes resources. Organizations driving activities on the ground are often underfunded and face long-term financial insecurity. While the benefits of restoration far outweigh the costs, initial investments in the magnitude of billions are needed. Governments, international lenders, development agencies and private business will all have to ramp up their support. Individuals can consider giving a donation, their time or their expertise to a worthy initiative.
3. Set the Right Incentives
Restoration is good for the planet and people. But leading on restoration is often not rewarded. Not only are there direct up-front investments, but caring for nature can also mean foregoing some of the financial gains of less sustainable practices. However, there are ways to change this: agricultural and fishing subsidies that often finance harmful practices could be used to support restoration instead. In the long-term, healthier ecosystems can produce bigger harvests, more secure incomes and a healthier environment for people.
4. Celebrate Leadership
Over the past years, we have witnessed incredible momentum around restoration. Campaigns to plant trillions of trees have captured the imagination of many and communities have come together for mass planting festivals. Under the Bonn Challenge, more than 60 countries have committed to bringing 350 million hectares of forest landscapes back to life. Indigenous peoples have acted as defenders of their ecosystems for generations. The UN Decade will celebrate leadership and encourage others to step up.
5. Shift Behaviors
While restoration is always specific to a local environment, the forces that drive the destruction of ecosystems are often connected to global trends. Deforestation, the depletion of fish stocks and the degradation of agricultural soils are all caused by global consumption patterns. The UN Decade will work with all partners to identify and encourage restoration-friendly consumption. This can range from shifting diets to promotion restoration-based products.
6. Invest in Research
Restoration is complex. Practices that work in one ecosystem may have adverse impacts in another. As the climate changes, new uncertainties arise. Returning to a former state may not be desirable as hotter temperatures or shifting rainfall call for more resilient plants and crops. Scientific understanding of how to restore and adapt ecosystems is still developing. Considerable investments are needed to identify the best practices to restore our planet – one plot at a time.
7. Build Up Capacity
Thousands of conservation and restoration initiatives are already underway. The UN Decade will be fuelled by their vision, expertise and dedication. However, these practitioners often face multiple barriers that keep them from taking their projects to scale. Other critical sectors, such as finance, require more data and insights to make informed decisions. As a priority, the UN Decade’s strategy seeks to build the capacity of marginalized groups that stand to lose most from the continued destruction of ecosystems – such as indigenous peoples, women and youth to take an active role in restoration.
8. Celebrate a Culture of Restoration
The power to revive our environment does not lie with governments, experts and practitioners alone. Far from it: Shifting from plundering the planet to healing it is a cultural challenge. The UN Decade’s strategy therefore calls on artists, storytellers, producers, musicians and connectors to join the #GenerationRestoration.
9. Build Up the Next Generation
It is youth and future generations who are most impacted by the consequences of the current rapid destruction of ecosystems. They also stand to benefit the most from the creation of sustainable jobs based on a restoration economy. The UN Decade’s strategy makes a direct link between the wellbeing of youth and the goals of restoration. Education for restoration will turn today’s children into ecosystem ambassadors, provide skills for sustainable jobs and ensure that the UN Decade’s achievements far outlive its timeframe.
10. Listen and Learn
We would like to hear from you. If you are a restoration practitioner, take a quick survey to help us learn more about you and your needs.
Restoring ecosystems means protecting their biodiversity and helping them to deliver benefits for people and nature. It means using ecosystems on land and in the oceans in ways that strengthen their natural resources and processes. Actions for restoration can also mean preventing degradation or reducing its extent.
Join #GenerationRestoration and mark the start of your ambitious multi-year restoration project, the day you kick unsustainable products out of your life, or the moment you and others begin speaking up for the environment. As outlined by the Ecosystem Restoration Playbook, there are three pathways to join the movement and improve the well-being of people and nature: taking action; making smart choices; and raising your voice for restoration.
Take Action By:
- Announcing an ambitious restoration project or policy initiative, whether at local, regional or national level – tell the world what role you will play in a ten-year push.
- Volunteering for an existing restoration effort.
- Cleaning up a lake, beach, park or other natural area
- Greening your home, business, school, or a public space with indigenous trees or plants.
- Join an ecosystem restoration camp. It is a great way to give back to the planet and make a positive impact in your local region or while travelling abroad. The camps offer a range of short to long-term volunteering programs where everyone is welcome!
Make Smart Choices By:
- Pledging a donation or other support for restoration or conservation initiatives.
- Halting purchases of products and services that are not certified as sustainable.
- Starting a new diet or catering policy based on seasonal, sustainable and plant-rich products.
Raise Your Voice By:
- Putting on or participating in an exhibition of posters, photos or art showing the beauty of local ecosystems
- Holding a discussion about the value of ecosystems and the threats they face.
- Staging an online campaign to draw attention to climate change, nature loss and what can be done to reverse these trends.
- Writing a letter to your local newspaper.
Everyone of us can take action to heal the planet. Join the #GenerationRestoration snap challenge and show us how you will make a difference.
What Restoration Can Look Like
Forests and Trees
Forests and trees provide us with clean air and water, capture vast amounts of climate-heating carbon and are home to most of Earth’s biodiversity. They supply food and fodder, fuel and materials, and support the livelihoods of billions of people.
- Plant trees: Tree planting is a simple and hugely popular restoration activity. You can add trees to a garden, a public space, a farm, across a landscape or even a whole country. Selective planting can revitalize a forest degraded by overharvesting.
- Assist natural regeneration: This low-cost restoration strategy involves creating the conditions for indigenous trees to germinate or re-sprout naturally.
- Forest landscape restoration: Well-resourced projects can secure bigger restoration gains by looking at a whole landscape.
Rivers and Lakes
Freshwater ecosystems supply food, water and energy to billions of people, protect us from droughts and floods, and provide unique habitat for many plants and animals, including one-third of all vertebrate species.
- Clean it up: Gather up all the trash and junk dumped or washed up so that people appreciate the landscape and take better care of it.
- Regulate access: Create agreed and easy-to-use access points, for instance for animals to drink, boats to land, or people to swim and relax. This will spare fragile vegetation, bird habitat and fish spawning grounds and reduce erosion at the water’s edge.
- Restore vegetation: Plant indigenous species to restore rich habitats along the banks of rivers and lakes, create wildlife corridors, and create a buffer zone between the water and sources of pollution, such as nearby industries or farms; remove invasive alien species.
- Plan sustainably: Develop fishing and harvesting plans that don’t deplete the water, fish or other resources. Reduce and treat sewage, stop chemical pollutants, industrial waste or other effluent entering the water. Strike agreements or pay incentives to reduce the use of agricultural chemicals on adjacent land.
- Protect and restore nature: On a landscape scale, seek wide agreement on the declaration of important freshwater ecosystems as protected areas. Remove dams or other infrastructure that are no longer needed and restore natural river flow. And campaign to keep residential development, dredging or mining out of sensitive areas.
Towns and Cities
Urban areas occupy less than 1 per cent of the Earth’s land surface but house more than half of its people. Despite their steel and concrete, crowds and traffic, cities and towns are still ecosystems whose condition profoundly marks the quality of our lives. Functioning urban ecosystems help clean our air and water, cool urban heat islands, shield us from hazards and provide opportunities for rest and play. They can also host a surprising amount of biodiversity.
Green public spaces: Design and support initiatives to restore waterways and wetlands, plant indigenous trees, and create urban woodland and other wildlife habitats along roads and railways and in public spaces. Get local businesses to help with funding and expertise. Sometimes, the best efforts come for free: Rewilding public spaces by mowing grass and cutting down plants attracts insects, birds, butterflies and even mammals to return to the city.
Citizens for sustainability: Campaign for sustainable urban planning, including the restoration of disused or contaminated sites, the inclusion of green spaces in new housing developments, and strong public transport networks. Faced with climate change, more citizens get involved in “adopt-a-tree” initiatives that help ensure trees – especially the young ones with shallow roots – are watered during dry spells. Digital tools, like apps, can support these efforts by tracking and coordinating individual contributions.
One micro-ecosystem at a time: Manage your own garden, yard, business premises or school, however big or small they are, in ways that boost nature, or care for a roadside tree. Plant indigenous species, start dense urban micro-forests and make compost.
Oceans and Coasts
Oceans and seas cover more than 70 per cent of the Earth. These ecosystems regulate our climate and generate most of the oxygen we breathe. They underpin key economic sectors, such as tourism and fisheries. And they harbor biodiversity from, whales to plankton, in habitats from sun-lit reefs to polar oceans.
- Clean up: Mobilize all ages to gather the masses of household waste and abandoned fishing gear that wash up on our beaches and shores. Recycle plastics and other materials to keep them out of landfill. Stop using avoidable and unnecessary plastic products. Watch out for microbeads and microplastics hidden in products! The more people take part, the more awareness grows of the need to reduce waste and dispose of it properly.
- Restore vegetation above and below the water: Protect and restore coastal ecosystems including saltmarshes, mangroves, coral reefs, sea-grass meadows and shellfish beds to boost their diversity and the habitats and benefits they provide. All ecosystems are complex, so get expert advice for your location.
- Use the ocean wisely: Bring together communities, authorities and other stakeholders to agree how to make coastal and ocean development and fishing sustainable, for instance by creating protected areas and deciding who can access which resources. If fishing communities come together and jointly decide on protected areas and fishing zones in their waters, people and nature benefit. Use citizen scientists to monitor the impact of degradation and the benefits of restoration.
Farmlands and Grasslands
Farmlands and grasslands are perhaps our most vital ecosystems. As well as supplying food, fodder, and fibre, arable fields and grazing land host a bewildering variety of organisms from bats and birds to beetles and worms as well as considerable tree cover. Marked by centuries of human effort and ingenuity, these ecosystems are cultural treasures whose protection makes spiritual as well as economic sense.
- Invest in nature: Reduce tillage and use natural pest control and organic fertilizer on arable land to build the health of your soil and the yields of your crops while reducing erosion and the need for farm chemicals.
- Trust in diversity: Grow more trees and a greater variety of crops and integrate them with livestock keeping to further boost soil health, diversify your income and provide better wildlife habitat. Planting flowers along the borders of farmlands can provide valuable “feeding stations” for bees and other pollinators.
- Keep grasslands whole: In extensive grasslands and savannahs, protect areas along rivers where nutrients are high from being converted to cropland. Without them, less productive areas are harder to use sustainably.
- Graze sustainably: Agree on grazing regimes that prevent overuse, soil erosion and invasions of grasslands by shrubs and alien species. Restore already degraded areas by clearing woody vegetation and re-seeding native grasses.
- Bring back indigenous species: Reintroduce eradicated plants, trees and animals and protect them from predation and hunting until they are established.
The Greener.LAND initiative has created a visual guide to techniques for restoring land and the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies has hundreds of methods to protect and restore farmlands, grasslands and other ecosystems in its Global Database on Sustainable Land Management. In addition, the PANORAMA platform brings together proven solutions for a range of ecosystems – including ideas on how to increase biodiversity in agriculture.
Mountains harbor most of Earth’s biodiversity hotspots and supply fresh water to an estimated half of humanity. They include a multitude of ecosystems providing a home to unique species, such as snow leopards and mountain gorillas, as well as great cultural diversity among people adapted to the challenges of mountain life.
- Restore forest shields: Restore and replant forests and trees to protect soil, safeguard water flows and guard against natural disasters, such as avalanches, landslides and floods.
- Limit extraction and excavation: Our hunger for resources can have catastrophic consequences for mountains and hillsides. Make sure that landscapes are restored after mining operations have ended.
- Let ecosystems migrate: Create or connect protected areas covering different altitudes so that species and ecosystems can migrate according to the shifting climate.
- Farm for resilience: Promote and adopt sustainable farming techniques, such as agroforestry, that restore soils and biodiversity and can be more resilient in the face of climate change and extreme weather.
- Learn from experience: Tap local and indigenous knowledge to keep the use of natural resources sustainable.
This overview of how healthy ecosystems reduce disaster risks in mountainous areas is helpful and many restoration techniques in this guide can also be applied in mountain ecosystems.
Though they cover only 3 per cent of the world’s land, peatlands store nearly 30 per cent of its soil carbon. They control water supplies and prevent floods and droughts and provide many people with food and fuel. They also house plants and animals unique to these watery environments.
- Protect peatlands: Include these sensitive ecosystems in protected areas to prevent their drainage, conversion and overuse.
- Dam the drains: Keep peatlands healthy by closing drainage channels and slowing water flows, for example by putting rocks in ditches and streams and growing trees along their banks.
- Accelerate recovery: Plant and seed peatland plant species, such as native grasses and mosses, to boost their natural regeneration.
- Limit pressures: Outside protected areas, work with stakeholders to establish sustainable use of peatlands, for instance as extensive grazing lands. Promote alternative energy sources to reduce demand for peat as a fuel.
Let’s Talk Ecosystems Podcast
In the framework of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, FAO and UNEP Europe Office have launched a 10-episode series podcast airing every Wednesday, from 29 March to 31 May 2023. Giving the voice to environmentalists and entrepreneurs, the podcasts highlight best practices and activities undertaken to make a difference on the ground.
Role of International Geneva
Organizations are listed in alphabetical order
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger and transform agri-food systems, making them more resilient, sustainable and inclusive. FAO’s goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. Together with UNEP, FAO leads the UN Decade for Restoration.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) contributes to the launch of the UN Decade on Restoration through developing scientific underpinning to guide implementation of restoration activities, supporting monitoring through flagship tools including the Red List of Ecosystems and the Barometer, mobilizing its constituency to action on the ground, and paving the way for global communities of action in all ecosystems.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. Together with FAO, UNEP leads the UN Decade for Restoration.
United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD)
The UN-REDD Programme was launched in 2008 and builds on the convening role and technical expertise of the FAO, UNDP and UNEP. The Programme supports nationally led REDD+ processes and promotes the informed and meaningful involvement of all stakeholders, including indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities, in national and international REDD+ implementation. Additionally, the programme supports national REDD+ readiness efforts in 65 partner countries, spanning Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.
WWF has been working on forest issues for 50 years. It has supported the creation of protected areas, helped move the forest sector towards sustainability and transparency, and working across the world to halt deforestation, help restore forests and put deforestation-free commitments into action.
Ecosystem Restoration in Geneva
Platform “Dans ma nature”
As a result of an unprecedented collaboration between the Canton of Geneva and environmental actors in the canton, the new platform Dans ma nature aims to increase public awareness in favor of biodiversity.
The Department of Territory of the Canton of Geneva has embarked on several projects for the successful restoration of local ecosystems:
90 Hectares of Sanctuary Forest
Nant de Braille
Plage de la Plaine
Ruisseau de Pralie
Conservation, Restoration and Rewilding Efforts in Switzerland
Organizations are listed in alphabetical order
Bioparc Genève, formerly the Challandes Animal Park, is home to 250 animals, a third of which are threatened species in the wild. It is a center of competence and expertise on wild, local and exotic animals and an essential player in the field of knowledge about animal species, from information on how to adopt the best behavior towards local wildlife to the training of animal caretakers. Its team of experts and enthusiasts works for the conservation and rewilding of animal species, both local and exotic, through biodiversity conservation, awareness of environmental issues, animal assisted therapy, and scientific research and expertise.
Pro Natura is the oldest nature conservation organization in Switzerland with several protected sites with important wildlife in Geneva, such as the Centre Nature Vallon de l’Allondon and the Centre Nature de la Pointe à la Bise, and in the rest of the Switzerland.
ProSpecieRara was founded in 1982 as a Swiss non-profit foundation with the aim of protecting cultivated plants and animals threatened with extinction. Currently, it is committed to the conservation and use of 1,400 vegetable and field plants, 500 variety of berries, 1,900 varieties of fruits, 800 varieties of ornamental plants and 32 breeds of production animals.
Tierpark Bern opened in 1937 is the public zoo of the City of Bern. It has been instrumental in the rewilding of species in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in Switzerland and abroad, particularly, the reintroduction of the European bison and the European Pond Turtle.
- Why restoring nature is good for farmers, fisheries and food security | UNEP | 6 July 2023
- Restore: Films from the frontiers of hope | United Nations Environment Programme and Food and Agricultural Organization | 2023
- Nature-based Solutions and Ecosystems Restoration: Geneva Nature-based Solutions Dialogues – World Environment Day and UN Decade on Restoration | Geneva Environment Network | 7 June 2021
- Using ecosystem risk assessment science for restoration: A guide to applying the Red List of Ecosystems to ecosystem restoration | IUCN Red List of Ecosystems
- Recreate, Re-imagine, Restore! UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration Kicks Off | UNEP | 4 June 2021
- Wednesdays for the Planet: Europe Reclaims Biodiversity | Geneva Environment Network | 2 June 2021
- What to Expect from the Rewilding of Italy’s Largest Mountain Range | Euronews | May 2021
- Wednesdays for the Planet: One Planet and Sanctuary Forest | Geneva Environment Network | 3 March 2021
- Crocodiles sacrés, les nouveaux résidents du Bioparc Genève | Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) | March 2021
- Rewilding: Can It Save Our Wildlife and Temper Climate Change? | BBC Science Focus Magazine | January 2021
- Bringing Back the Beast: Rewilding Projects are Expanding European Carnivore Ranges | Geographical | October 2020
- Plan biodiversité 2020-2023 de la stratégie biodiversité Genève 2030 | Canton of Geneva | April 2020
- Mission Crocodile: Conservation Status of the Crocodylus Suchus | CBD and Bioparc Genève | January 2020
- Mission Hedgehog – Analysing Causes of Hedgehog Rescues to Better Protect Them | CBD and Bioparc Genève | January 2020
- Mission Biodiversity | CBD and Bioparc Genève | January 2020
- Assessing Ecological Function in the Context of Species Recovery | Conservation Biology: The journal of the Society for Conservation | 2020
- Rewilding London’s Urban Spaces | UNEP | December 2019
- The Best Way to Save Nature? More Nature | TIME | September 2019
- Rewilding | Cambridge University Press | February 2019
- Rewilding – Helping Nature Find Its Own Way | WWF | October 2018
- Quantifying Species Recovery and Conservation Success to Develop an IUCN Green List of Species | Conservation Biology: The journal of the Society for Conservation | October 2018
- Rewilding in a European Context | International Journal of Wilderness | August 2016
- Wild Bison Return to Europe After a Century | National Geographic | March 2016
- Rewilding Europe: A New Strategy for an Old Continent | May 2015
- Action Agenda: Reversing Biodiversity Loss and Promoting Positive Gains to 2030 | CBD
- Rewilding | International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
- Rewilding Europe
- Biodiversity Strategy of Geneva – 2030 and Action Plan | Canton of Geneva
- Sanctuaire forestier, îlot de sénescence et arbre-habitat | Canton of Geneva