As climate change gains momentum, so does the drought that is gripping the great American West. States such as California and Colorado are vivid examples of what a mega-drought can do to entire ecosystems and entire communities. Both states are experiencing their worst wildfires on record and there is little moisture, or hope, on the horizon.
It’s bad enough that we are losing forests at a record pace, but we also are losing biodiversity that will never return. We also are dumping scarce water resources on these fires in a futile attempt to save property. It’s a formula for an ongoing ecological disaster that threatens food and water supplies for millions of people.
FLR prioritizes both biodiversity conservation and human livelihoods. It also is an economic development strategy that can generate thousands of jobs.
FLR is about using land sustainably in a variety of ways, such as new tree plantings, protected wildlife reserves, regenerated forests, ecological corridors, agroforestry, riverside plantings to protect waterways, managed plantations, and agriculture.
This mosaic of interacting land uses takes place within and across entire landscapes – a scale where ecological, social and economic priorities can be balanced.
Forest restoration tailors to the local context using a variety of approaches. It relies on stakeholders to identify restoration objectives, and to draw on the latest science, best practices, and traditional and indigenous knowledge to choose intervention types.
For example, one country may only want to strengthen ecosystem resilience by increasing forest connectivity and diversity. Yet, a neighboring country might prioritize carbon sequestration and water protection, planting trees for climate change mitigation and carbon credits and to protect rivers from sedimentation.
FLR is a process. It seeks to regain, improve and maintain a degraded or deforested landscape’s vital ecological and social functions in the long-term, and build its resilience to ecological and societal changes.
For example, the Bonn Challenge is one program that promotes the restoration of forests and degraded land. Its goal is to bring 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested landscapes into restoration by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030. Launched by the Government of Germany and IUCN in 2011, the Challenge surpassed the 150-million-hectare milestone for pledges in 2017. Currently, more than 70 pledgers from more than 60 countries are restoring 210 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands.
The program responded to the urgent issue of land degradation affecting over 3 billion people and over 30 percent of Earth’s arable land. It works with countries, organizations and private entities to pledge and achieve ambitious targets to restore degraded and deforested lands. The great American West and other regions of the world must embrace these conservation concepts for survival.
We align our work with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) goal, and the Paris Climate Change Agreement – all together providing a roadmap for a sustainable planet.
To achieve these goals, we rely on a flexible, nuanced approach to restoration called forest landscape restoration (FLR).
On September 2, 2020, the Bonn Challenge hosted a global event celebrating the first milestone year of the Bonn Challenge and the enormous impact of the forest landscape restoration movement. Global leaders and restoration champions will celebrate the diversity of benefits that FLR brings and call for increased global commitments from governments to reach the 2030 target of 350 million hectares under restoration, in advance of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Influencers and spokespeople included Bianca Jagger, Dr. Bruno Oberle (Director General, IUCN), Jochen Flasbarth (State Secretary, BMU), and thousands of other government ministers, indigenous leaders, youth activists and restoration champions.
“FLR harnesses the power of nature to provide benefits to people’s livelihoods, improve access to essential resources, create and restore habitats for countless species, and store vast amounts of carbon to help mitigate climate change,” said Dr. Bruno Oberle Director General of the IUCN. “IUCN has remained a global leader on FLR both politically and technically, and has implemented projects and initiatives in more than 40 countries. As governments and organisations are rethinking how we work with and exist in nature in a post-COVID world, the Bonn Challenge’s achievements provide a very timely demonstration of the potential of Nature-based Solutions to address society’s problems.”
IUCN and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) coined the term forest landscape restoration in 2000 as a framework for managing landscapes, complementing both forest conservation and sustainable management. Since then, FLR has evolved into a powerful nature-based solution, transforming landscapes and the lives of people worldwide.
“We are living through unprecedented times due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but Covid-19 is not the only threat we face in the world today,” said Bianca Jagger, IUCN’s Ambassador for the Bonn Challenge. “Climate change has become an existential threat. The restoration of degraded and deforested lands is not simply about planting trees. People and communities are at the heart of the restoration effort, which transforms barren or degraded areas of land into healthy, fertile working landscapes.”
The Bonn Challenge has proven to be a key vehicle for climate change mitigation and adaptation, addressing land degradation, and for conserving and restoring biodiversity. The great American West should embrace this concept immediately.
Click here for more information about the Bonn Challenge and FLR.