The decade that began in 2021 for the United Nations is the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. an attempt to combat the damage we have done to the environment, Mitigating the effects of the climate crisisreduce our exposure to it, and at the same time, Use this process to improve society.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) calculates that in these ten years, of which we have already spent two, 350 million hectares of degraded terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems could be restored. Thus, they will be born 9 billion dollars in ecosystem services, in addition to removing 13 to 26 gigatons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
The United Nations defines ecosystem restoration as “a process of reversing the degradation of ecosystems – such as landscapes, lakes and oceans – to restore their ecological functions.” Or in other words: “Improving the productivity and capacity of ecosystems to meet the needs of society.” The presentation of the very concept is already suggestive A work that cares about the environment and sustainable economic goals.
[Miguel Bastos Araújo (CSIC): “La biodiversidad representa el 50% del PIB mundial”]
Josu G. Alday, Professor of Ecosystems and Environmental Restoration at the University of Lleida, adds that “what restoration aims to do is That a degraded ecosystem restores resources to continue its development Without additional help, that is, it does not depend on human actions for its maintenance. ”
For this expert, “What is interesting about ecological restoration is that it is multidisciplinary and requires knowledge from various fields such as geomorphology, soil science, forest management, animal biology and microorganisms to achieve ecosystem restoration. This combination is what gives it the ability to restore ecosystems.”
The most recent studied examples of ecosystem restoration have occurred in countries such as Australia or the USA. initially with Significant recovery of areas affected by mines or exploitation. In the second, with the recovery of the great meadows of the so-called Tall , Typical of the Midwest, in the Great Plains.
In Spain, Alday notes that the most successful programs “are those dedicated to recovery of riparian areas or swamps”. Like, for example, the Rubin swamps in San Vicente de la Barquera (Cantabria) or the restoration of the swamps of the Barbadon River in Musques (Biscay). Similarly, the World Nature Foundation is working to restore wetlands in Castilla-La Mancha In the mining areas Valencia Techniques that have already worked in other countries are being put into practice.
Countries by Ecosystem
Currently, according to the United Nations Decade to Take Back Program, 57 countries, subnational governments and private organizations have committed to restoring more than 170 million hectares. Or what is the same: half of the global goal that the United Nations and the Food and Agriculture Organization have set for themselves.
The project builds on regional efforts such as 20×20 in Latin Americawhich seeks to restore 20 million hectares of degraded land, and African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative AFR100which aims to restore another 100 million hectares of poor land by 2030.
Professor Aldai points out that when we talk about restoration It is impossible to be sure that an ecosystem will return to the exact state before the previous degradation. “An ecosystem, for example, a beech forest, is defined by the sum of the processes that occurred in that forest over a period of years or centuries. This means that in order for an ecosystem to return to its previous state, it must undergo the same processes. This is practically impossible.”
Usually, he explains, “with ecological restoration, what we’re trying to achieve is Return to situations similar to the ecosystem before the disturbance. It is expected that over time the restored ecosystem is expected to produce services similar to those produced by a non-degraded ecosystem.”
Likewise, it should be borne in mind that it is easier to restore grassland and grassland areas than forests, since grassland areas are less complex than more mature ecosystems. Anyway, following the example, It takes a long time to restore a mature forestWe’re talking hundreds of years, perhaps,” he concludes.
But the real significance of this kind of work lies in the fact that “ecosystems are essential to ensuring life on the planet, and to ensuring cycles like those of nutrients or water, so their preservation and maintenance must be a priority.” That is why it is more interesting Reverse the damage done to those devastated by human actionssuch as the classic examples of mining or arson.
“When ecosystems are degraded by natural causes, the obligation to restore is no longer clear. Natural processes are an integral part of ecosystems and partly help create opportunities for species,” the expert admits.
[Pedro Sánchez, en el día de la sequía: “Negar la evidencia científica es un insulto a la inteligencia”]
The United Nations considers ecosystem restoration as key to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. It currently appreciates 20% of the planet’s vegetation shows a downward trend in its productivity, with the loss of fertility associated with erosion, depletion and pollution worldwide.
By 2050, climate change and its degradation could reduce agricultural yields by 10% globally. And up to 50% in certain areas.
Dai insists that “the ecological restoration of ecosystems must be focused on restore ecosystem functions and the ecosystem services it provides. This brings with it environmental values such as carbon fixation, nature conservation, or nutrient cycles, among others.”
But it “also means social values, that is, once time and money are invested in ecosystem restoration, the natural resources are expected to be used, enjoyed or used by society in a responsible manner,” he recalls.
Because, he warns, “It must be the end preservation of the restored ecosystem over time, Take advantage of the resources provided by the ecosystem. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to invest money to restore a mature forest with endangered species, only to cut it down completely in a few years to get the benefit of the wood.”
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