Is missing knowledge hampering the effectiveness of approaches that aim to restore biodiversity and ecosystem function and services?

Member: Eszter Kelemen

Date: 19.12.2017



We are currently scoping a request from BiodivERsA on restoration. As part of this scoping exercise we are calling for knowledge from the wider community of knowledge holders on the issue of whether missing knowledge is hampering the effectiveness of approaches that aim to restore biodiversity and ecosystem function and services. Please contribute to this call with any knowledge, information, or comments on the issue that you may have.

A number of restoration targets and cross-sectoral actions aim to restore degraded biodiversity and ecosystems, both as a natural heritage to safeguard and as a natural asset vital to enhanced ecosystem integrity and sustainable delivery of a range of ecosystem services in Europe. However, many of these efforts are not achieving their aims.

The aim of this request is to understand the reasons why current approaches to restoration are not as effective as they could be. Such understanding can support stakeholders from a wide range of different fields, such as ecological engineering, circular economy, water-smart solutions, species and landscape management, and restoration technologies, to better contribute to the EU’s industries and economic sectors that are dependent on these natural assets (e.g. water- and fibre-related/dependent industries), as well as improve human well-being.

To scope current knowledge on what is hampering the effectiveness of existing approaches that aim to restore biodiversity and ecosystem function and services, we would like to invite you to answer the following questions:

  • Do you know of any projects, papers, reports, grey literature that have or are exploring the reasons why existing approaches that aim to restore biodiversity and ecosystem function and services are not as effective as they could be?
  • Could you share your experiences of on-the-ground actions aiming at restoration in the EU, including ORs and OCTs at various scales? These can be successful or unsuccessful processes – we can learn from both!
  • Do you have any suggestions on what knowledge is needed to increase the effectiveness of existing approaches that aim to restore biodiversity and ecosystem function and services or how existing knowledge could be better mobilized to this end?

We encourage contributions of knowledge by 5th February 2018. To read more about this call and the request process, please refer to the Call for Knowledge (CfK 1/2018) on our Open Calls page or check the attached pdf document.


Keywords: Cropland, Grassland, Heathland and shrub, Rivers and lakes, Sparsely vegetated land, Urban, Wetlands, Woodland and forest, Rehabilitation/Restoration
Last edited: 24.01.2018 08:31 (GMT) - by Eszter Kelemen

Date: 27.12.2017 10:02 (GMT)

Dear Eszter, this paper may be of interest to you DOI: 10.1007/s00267-017-0929-x. I believe that one of the multiple reasons is that institutional mechanisms established within management settings do not effectively promote the compilation and application of scientific knowledge for conservation practice. This study provides empirical evidence that exploring such mechanisms is a useful approach to identify gaps and opportunities to increase their efficiency.

Member: Eszter Kelemen

Date: 08.01.2018 10:42 (GMT)

Many thanks for sharing your thoughts and the paper with us!

Member: Emelie Waldén

Date: 18.01.2018 13:37 (GMT)

Dear Eszter,
According to my experience in semi-natural grassland restoration, the existing restoration aims at site-level are unclear (given that aims actually exists) and not quantitatively measurable. This makes evaluation from a scientific point of view difficult and from a stakeholder perspective subjective. If this is of interest, please read further here:

Member: Juliette Young

Date: 19.01.2018 13:36 (GMT)

Many thanks Emelie - this is really useful information. Please let us know if you have any other information relating to this Call for Knowledge that you would like to share with us. Also, if you could disseminate this call to colleagues who might want to share their knowledge on this issue, please do not hesitate - the call is open for comments until the 5th February.

Member: Jan Frouz

Date: 23.01.2018 07:38 (GMT)

Restoring natural ecosystem in my opinion face two challenges. The firs one lead in perception of public and most relevant regulation which is based on concept of recultivation of disturbed land as and approach returning those to productive agriculture and forestry. Although those do not represent knowledge gap per se it create large complexity of existing legal regulations, which make in many cases difficult to apply or restore natural processes.

The second challenge is a knowledge gap in terms of functioning of oligothrophic ecosystem. Important part of ecology focus on aboveground interactions. However we know that aboveground interactions mainly competition about light occur mainly in system well supplied by nutrients. Those euthrophic systems also have less species, due to competition of several dominant species. Important effort has been paid to answer the question how to reduce that competition. We know that reduction of nutrient level is important to restore many close to natural ecosystem. In those system competition about light is less important, but there is larger role of interactions of plants with other ecosystem components namely aboveground belowground interactions. As alreadz mentioned, most studies so far focus on plants and above ground parts of plants interactions with soil, soil biota and other ecosystem components is much less concern. We have lack of mechanistic understanding about ecosystem functioning in oligothrophic systems how these mechanisms work and how they are affected by technical measures and how this is modified by environmental factors such as soil or climatic properties.

Member: Juliette Young

Date: 26.01.2018 10:20 (GMT)

Dear Jan, thanks so much for this - really useful. If you have any links or references for the studies you mention that would be great.

Member: Petr Petrik

Date: 29.01.2018 10:41 (GMT)

As for the first part of Jan´s comment, I agree with him, however, we should specify, what is the "public". In one sociological survey conducted by the Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences (sorry I have not found the English version), the interviewed people labelled developers and farmers as a group which has the most negative impact on environment apart of, e.g., bee-keepers.

Of course, it is useful to know perception of public, however, we should specify the stakeholders important for success of restoration projects. In the case discussed by Jan Frouz, the stakeholders are mostly officials, miners and politicians. That is quite limited group subjected to strict laws. One way is to influence this group via environmental education or just to show them positive examples, the second is a focused campaign. In the Czech Republic, the both approaches are more or less done by NGOs and that is inadequate. We should foster state institutes to bemore active in communication. I would like to highlight here the activity of NGO Calla, which produces very good publication with many positive examples:

Member: Anouschka Hof

Date: 24.01.2018 10:05 (GMT)

Hi Esther, I and a college recently published this paper which may be of interest. It uses landscape modelling tools to assess the potential effectiveness of a restoration project. This could of course also be applied to other projects. It does not directly explore the reason for lack of effectiveness of restoration projects but does provide a potential tool to increase the effectiveness.

This paper co-authors and I published a few years ago may also be usefull. In this study we conlude that "We believe that restoration ecologists are failing to include themselves in policy formation and implementation of issues such as climate change within journals focused on restoration ecology. We suggest that more explicit reference to policies and terminology recognizable to policymakers might enhance the impact of restoration ecology on decision-making processes."

Member: Juliette Young

Date: 26.01.2018 10:22 (GMT)

Fantastic! Thanks Anouschka. This is very interesting. If you have any colleagues who would also like to further contribute to this call, that would be great.

Member: Baraa Al-Badran

Date: 30.01.2018 13:26 (GMT)

My project on “Mycorrhiza-mediated Effects in Plant Ecology” . In detail project investigates the implementation of mycorrhizal fungi in the prac-tice of sown biodiverse permanent pastures rich in legumes (SBPPRL), which is employed as a strategy to increase grassland productivity, and carbon sequestration, combat soil erosion and land abandonment. This green-fertilization practice results in higher yields of better quality pasture, significantly increases sustainable stocking rates, with multiple environmental co-benefits. However, the sustainability of SBPPRL is unclear, as legumes are particularly susceptible to drought, overgrazing and nutrient limitation (particularly phosphorus). The implementation of endophytic symbionts (arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, AMF) in the SBPPRL practice may provide optimized water and phosphorus uptake and use efficiencies under drought and nutrient-poor conditions, thus increasing sustainability of the practice. During my current work I already obtained promising results regarding the role of mycorrhiza in combating P-limitation, herbivory, water stress and competition in the species used in the practice of SBPPRL, some of which presented successfully at the international conferences on Mycorrhiza in Prague ICOM9 (Role of arbus-cular mycorrhizal fungi in the sustainability of a green fertilization practice - poster).

Currently I am working on the successful partitioning between rhizobial and mycorrhizal treatments in the studied SBPPRL species to better understand carbon transfer between different symbionts under diverse environmental and nutritional conditions. Further, I assesses the value of a new pre-encapsulation technique of seeds to achieve directed inoculation of the SBPPRL legumes . I hope my project help to restore biodiversity and ecosystem function ....

Member: Elise Buisson

Date: 01.02.2018 16:01 (GMT)

I think that one of the problems it that we don't have accurate figures of past and current restoration efforts in Europe. This would really help people planning a new project to see if it can connect with on-going or achieved ones, learn from them or from projects with similar reference ecosystems or degradation, etc. This ideal tool would be an online database linked to a map. The database would include basic information on each project as well as of restoration success.

Member: Philip BUBB

Date: 02.02.2018 17:35 (GMT)

I would like to offer a suggestion on knowledge needed to increase the effectiveness of approaches to restore biodiversity and ecosystem function and services, which is to provide both technical and 'non-technical' people involved with a practical understanding of the general concepts of ecosystem functioning and how this specifically applies to their local situation and restoration objectives. Otherwise the biophysical causes of degradation are poorly understand and the design of restoration options is inadequate. UNEP-WCMC has produced a Manual on ‘Planning Management for Ecosystem Services’ with ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development), which is available at
Our aim with the Manual is to contribute to existing site and landscape natural resource planning and restoration, by developing a practical understanding of the environment as an ecosystem. The approach of the Manual is people-centred, to strengthen the supply of ecosystem services as benefits for people, as well as helping to make the ‘ecosystem approach’ practical. The Manual includes key knowledge and possible indicators of ecosystem functioning and how these relate to ecosystem services. And there is a step to consider ecosystem resilience to drivers of change, by examining potential impacts on ecosystem functioning.
We are looking for opportunities to further demonstrate and develop this approach and if you are interested please contact

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