Restoration request

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

This request was initially put to EKLIPSE on its second call for requests (CfR.2/2017) by BiodivERsA, a network of national and regional funding organizations promoting pan-European research on biodiversity and ecosystem services, and offering innovative opportunities for the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity. 
 
Following the approval of the request, the following scoping activities have been carried out to further define the request:
 
a. Call for Knowledge in order to identify already existing work on the request, and
b. Evaluation of the policy and stakeholder relevance via bilateral telephone interviews and email requests.
 
BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT OF THE CALL 
The aim of this request is to understand the reasons why current approaches to restoration are not as effective as they could be. These reasons are expected to be broader than lack of, or poor access to relevant knowledge - see for example a recent publication that identified research priorities for landscape restoration1.
 
A better understanding of the different elements can support stakeholders from a wide range of different fields, such as restoration practitioners and specialists in ecological engineering, circular economy, water-smart solutions, species and landscape management, climate resilience/mitigation, food security 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 fiber-related/dependent industries), as well as improve human well-being. 
 
Policy Context
Target 2 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 states that “By 2020, ecosystems and their services are maintained and enhanced by establishing green infrastructure and restoring at least 15% of degraded ecosystems”
 
A number of actions have already taken place to address Target 22 (see Annex 3 of the DoW). A report on priorities for the restoration of ecosystems and their services3 provides useful clarification over the key terms used in the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 and in particular Target 2 and Action 6a, specifically the definition on restoration used for the purposes of this request (other definitions can be found in Annex 3): 
 
Restoration objectives should be tailored to the ecosystem type, the services it provides, the recent history of the site and the location. For each ecosystem type, several states or ecological conditions can be described along a continuum from poor to excellent. Any significant improvement of ecosystem condition that moves an area of land/sea to a better state/condition should be regarded as a contribution to the 15% restoration target. An ecosystem can be assigned to one of 4 levels of condition and progress in a positive direction from one level to the next is recognized as restoration.
 
It is worth pointing out that many other EU policies relate to restoration aims in indirect ways:
 
  • There is a very strong linkage between the 15% restoration objective included in Target 2 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy and the achievement of Target 1 namely the full implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives and associated Natura 2000 network.
  • Restoration actions will impact on existing legal obligations under the Water Framework Directive, the EU Bathing Water Directive, and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, such as achieving good ecological status in lakes and rivers or good environmental status in marine waters;
  • Restoration of degraded ecosystems will contribute significantly to the deployment of Green Infrastructure (Action 6b of the biodiversity strategy);
  • Restoration of disused and derelict land in urban and peri-urban areas will ease the pressure for access to new land for development and reduce soil sealing and urban sprawl;
  • Restoration actions can also deliver jobs and growth and a variety of economic and social benefits. Restoration actions have been and continue to be supported through EU funding mechanisms such as ERDF, EAFRD and Horizon 2020.
  • Restoration can increase greenhouse gas uptake and the resilience of natural ecosystems and human settlements to the impacts of climate change and is an integral part of EU policy on climate change adaptation.
  • The greening measures introduced into the revised Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) could provide some opportunities for restoring the state of agri-ecosystems and optimizing the ecosystem services and resilience delivered by these ecosystems. 
 
REFINED RESEARCH QUESTION
The final formulation of the request after scoping is:  
“What is hampering the effectiveness of existing approaches that aim to restore biodiversity and ecosystem function and services” 
 
This allows for knowledge gaps as well as other factors to be considered.
 
SUGGESTED PROGRAMME OF WORK AND METHODS 
This request focuses on constraints or barriers to effective restoration including the identification of knowledge gaps restricting restoration approaches/actions, appropriate methodologies, optimal management and effectiveness of interventions. It is not restricted to a specific type of restoration4 or ecosystem. 
 
This request therefore requires input from the social sciences as well as ecological research needs, pointing to the fact that some of the gaps will relate to research, while others will point to impediments to the use of existing knowledge, including lack of awareness of that knowledge. 
 
The scope of the request (and a possible typology) can therefore be summarized as addressing:
  • Gaps in knowledge
  • The communication of (existing) knowledge
  • Linkages between researchers and relevant stakeholders, i.e. practitioners
  • Capacity building (of both researchers and relevant stakeholders), including availability of appropriate tools or making use of existing knowledge.
During scoping it was recognized that there are specific ecosystems (e.g. marine) for which there are more knowledge gaps (e.g. ecological) than others (e.g. grasslands). However, from a policy perspective it may be useful to use a general approach to all MAES ecosystem types followed by some case studies focusing on knowledge gaps specific to ecosystem services (e.g. pollination) or ecosystem types. This request is relevant to restoration across Europe, including the EU’s Overseas Countries and Territories. 
 
The programme of work could follow a two-pronged approach (synergistic and in parallel): 
 
1) Identification of barriers to implementation, including the typology identified above, namely literature/research-derived knowledge gaps identified by academics, as well as the identification from scientists and people trying to implement restoration (i.e. practitioners) of other factors (e.g. governance; economics; politics, planning issues) that are hampering restoration efforts, including communication of (existing) knowledge, linkages between researchers and relevant stakeholders, i.e. practitioners, and capacity building. A synthesis of this step would differentiate between knowledge needs/gaps (here we could link to the 100-question paper and how we will build on its outputs) or implementation gaps, i.e. other constraints/barriers; 
 
2) Assessment of available knowledge and where this needs to be improved.
 
Following the Call for Experts, launched on May 2018, the members of the Expert Working Group have now been selected and a kick-off meeting of the Restoration EWG is planned for July 26th in Brussels.
 

Please also read our Document of Work.

 

1. Ockendon et al (2018). One hundred priority questions for landscape restoration in Europe. Biological Conservation 221: 198-208
2. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/biodiversity/strategy/target2/index_en.htm 
3. Lammerant, Johan; Peters, Richard; Snethlage, Mark; Delbaere, Ben; Dickie, Ian; Whiteley, Guy. (2013) Implementation of 2020 EU Biodiversity Strategy: Priorities for the restoration of ecosystems and their services in the EU. Report to the European Commission. ARCADIS (in cooperation with ECNC and Eftec)
4. See Ockendon et al (2018). One hundred priority questions for landscape restoration in Europe. Biological Conservation 221: 198-208.