The next decade determines our future

Ecosystems: the epicentre of restoration

Madrid / 04 June 2021

We are running out of time, and there is no time to waste. According to the experts, we only have ten years to reverse the great catastrophe we are facing: the climate crisis. We need recovery that focuses on taking care of ecosystems to ensure their survival. Ecosystems support all forms of life on Earth. If one ecosystem gets sick, we all get sick. That is why today, on World Environment Day, we call for the protection and restoration of ecosystems with the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030).
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In these environments, there are a series of relationships between species inhabiting each placeand the environment in which they live, whether they belong to the same family or not. Without these interrelationships, the existence of different life forms on this planet would not exist; that is to say, one species cannot live without relating to another or its environment, therefore, there must always be a balance.

Human beings are also part of ecosystems, but in this case, they harm themselves. "We are both victim and executioner of the destruction of ecosystems, which calls into question our survival on the planet," says Pilar Marcos, head of Biodiversity at Greenpeace Spain. According to several scientists, the speed with which humans modify nature does not allow ecosystems to recover in optimal time. This would mean that an overexploited ecosystem would take around a century to recover fully. In fact, an assessment carried out by scientists in a forest in Navarra, Spain, found that the forest has been in the process of recovery for 140 years due to mining activity.
More and more animals are becoming endangered
As well as this more and more animals are becoming endangered. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, some 5,200 animal species are on the verge of extinction. Among them, fish have the highest risk of extinction: 34%. But this is not just a problem for animals, "a million species are on the verge of extinction, a figure unparalleled in the history of humanity", declares Pilar Marcos. If we extrapolate this to the present day, COVID-19 is no exception to the deterioration of ecosystems. "It is just the latest of many zoonotic diseases that have crossed from animals to humans, from SARS to H1N1 (swine flu), from bird flu to Ebola. 
The current dynamics of nature's destruction are behind the leap of pathogens from wildlife to humans, the so-called zoonoses," explains Pilar Marcos.
The clock is ticking: only 10 years to go
The United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) "is a global rallying cry to heal our planet". It has a clear objective: "to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on all continents and in all oceans". In the face of this emergency, it been launched following a proposal for action by more than 70 countries. In addition, it will offer access to projects, funding and everything else needed for the restoration of ecosystems to be carried out with the involvement of all those interested in restoration.
A major obstacle facing the restoration of ecosystems is the lack of funding and difficulties in accessing information about the issue. Therefore, it is necessary that we come together and implement a defined strategy to reverse the situation. The Decade requires the support of all sectors of society. Governments need to commit themselves to truly useful and effective restoration activities and provide the necessary financial resources. As part of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) has published a practical guide to advance restoration. 
We are all responsible for conserving ecosystems

It describes approaches to restoring eight key ecosystem types: forests, croplands, grasslands and savannas, rivers and lakes, oceans and coasts, towns and cities, peatlands and mountains. It also details three essential restoration measures to keep the planet breathing: getting everyone involved, setting goals and measuring progress, and helping nature help itself.

We are all responsible for conserving ecosystems. Every small gesture count, for example, encouraging a local ecosystem clean-up action, changing your diet or promoting ecosystem conservation and restoration. These changes may seem insignificant, but if millions and millions of people do the same, the change could be monumental. It wouldn't be one clean local beach; it would be miles and miles of coastline. It wouldn't be two people eating less meat, it would be reducing the 20% (according to the FAO) of greenhouse gases produced by agriculture and livestock farming. Small gestures can make all the difference, and make ecosystems better preserved.


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