TWG 13 – Role of ES in Ecosystem restoration

1. Introduction & Objectives

Ecological restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed (SER 2004). An ecosystem is said to be degraded when it exhibits a loss of biodiversity and a simplification or disruption in ecosystem structure, function and composition caused by activities or disturbances that are too frequent or severe to allow for natural regeneration or unassisted recovery. Degradation results from various factors and drivers that are often interlinked. Many but not all of these are directly or indirectly related to human activities. They include unsustainable use, over-exploitation, and imprudent management of land, water and other resources, anthropogenic climate perturbations, and extreme events (e.g. drought, fire, and storms), whether anthropogenic or otherwise, all of which may reduce the quality and flow of ecosystem services. Ecological restoration becomes necessary when these activities or disturbances render the impacted ecosystem incapable of self-repair.

Ecological restoration is an intentional activity that initiates or facilitates the recovery of ecosystems by re-establishing a beneficial trajectory of maturation that persists over time and demonstrates resilience. The science and practice of ecological restoration are focused largely on reinstating autogenic ecological processes by which species populations can self-organize into functional and resilient communities that adapt to changing conditions while at the same time delivering vital ecosystem services. In addition to reinstating ecosystem functionality, ecological restoration also fosters the re-establishment of a healthy relationship between humans and the ecosystems on which they depend by reinforcing the inextricable link between nature and culture and recognizing the important benefits that ecosystems provide to human communities and all other forms of life.

Ecological rehabilitation is also an intentional activity that initiates or facilitates the recovery of ecosystems, but the emphasis is primarily given to the improvement of functionality, and it is most commonly undertaken in cultural landscapes rather than set-aside areas. Importance is given to restoring ecosystem processes and functions so as to increase or improve the flow of services and benefits to people. Ecological restoration and rehabilitation have much in common, especially when compared to the creation of ecosystems or their deliberate reorganization for specific purposes, such as in analog forestry. Both restoration and rehabilitation recognize that we live in a changing world, and that a full return to pre-disturbance conditions is often not possible. Hereafter, we will use the term “restoration” as short-hand for “ecological restoration and rehabilitation”.

Objective: This working group aims to further the understanding of practical applications of the ecosystem services concept for the restoration of all types of ecosystems, including financing, diagnosis, decision-making and prioritization as well as design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Proven successes will be highlighted and promising ideas will be explored. Spectacular failures will be studied as well. Restoration is a powerful strategy for reversing biodiversity loss, increasing/improving the provision of ecosystem services, and contributing to sustainable livelihoods. What makes restoration uniquely valuable is its inherent capacity to provide people with the opportunity not only to repair ecological damage, but also to improve the human condition. By ensuring and enhancing the provisioning, regulating and cultural services provided by ecosystems, restoration holds significant potential for securing socio-economic benefits, strengthening communities, and giving hope where it has been lost.

2. Lead Team & Members

Vacancy: if you are interested in leading this working group please contact Dolf de Groot.

If you are interested in becoming a member of this Working group, please contact Dolf de Groot.

3. More Information

For more information about this sub-working group click on one of the following links: