International principles and standards for the practice of ecological restoration. Second edition
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Ecological restoration, when implemented effectively and sustainably, contributes to protecting biodiversity; improving human health and wellbeing; increasing food and water security; delivering goods, services, and economic prosperity; and supporting climate change mitigation, resilience, and adaptation. It is a solutions-based approach that engages communities, scientists, policymakers, and land managers to repair ecological damage and rebuild a healthier relationship between people and the rest of nature. When combined with conservation and sustainable use, ecological restoration is the link needed to move local, regional, and global environmental conditions from a state of continued degradation, to one of net positive improvement. The second edition of the International Principles and Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration (the Standards) presents a robust framework for restoration projects to achieve intended goals, while addressing challenges including effective design and implementation, accounting for complex ecosystem dynamics (especially in the context of climate change), and navigating trade-offs associated with land management priorities and decisions.
The Standards establish eight principles that underpin ecological restoration. Principles 1 and 2 articulate important foundations that guide ecological restoration: effectively engaging a wide range of stakeholders, and fully utilizing available scientific, traditional, and local knowledge, respectively. Principles 3 and 4 summarize the central approach to ecological restoration, by highlighting ecologically appropriate reference ecosystems as the target of restoration and clarifying the imperative for restoration activities to support ecosystem recovery processes. Principle 5 underscores the use of measurable indicators to assess progress toward restoration objectives. Principle 6 lays out the mandate for ecological restoration to seek the highest attainable recovery. Tools are provided to identify the levels of recovery aspired to and to track progress. Principle 7 highlights the importance of restoration at large spatial scales for cumulative gains. Finally, ecological restoration is one of several approaches that address damage to ecosystems and Principle 8 clarifies its relationships to allied approaches on a “Restorative Continuum”.
The Standards highlight the role of ecological restoration in connecting social, community, productivity, and sustainability goals. The Standards also provide recommended performance measures for restorative activities for industries, communities, and governments to consider. In addition, the Standards enhance the list of practices and actions that guide practitioners in planning, implementation, and monitoring activities. The leading practices and guidance include discussion on appropriate approaches to site assessment and identification of reference ecosystems, different restoration approaches including natural regeneration, consideration of genetic diversity under climate change, and the role of ecological restoration in global restoration initiatives. This edition also includes an expanded glossary of restoration terminology. SER and its international partners produced the Standards for adoption by communities, industries, governments, educators, and land managers to improve ecological restoration practice across all sectors and in all ecosystems, terrestrial and aquatic. The Standards support development of ecological restoration plans, contracts, consent conditions, and monitoring and auditing criteria. Generic in nature, the Standards framework can be adapted to particular ecosystems, biomes, or landscapes; individual countries; or traditional cultures. The Standards are aspirational and provide tools that are intended to improve outcomes, promote best practices, and deliver net global environmental and social benefits. As the world enters the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030), the Standards provide a blueprint for ensuring ecological restoration achieves its full potential in delivering social and environmental equity and, ultimately, economic benefits and outcomes.
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