COP13 Blog Series - Introducing Forest and Landscape Restoration

Connecting landscapes with ecological corridors will benefit people, nature and business

Riina Jalonen, Associate Scientist, explains why forest and landscape restoration matters in the context of the upcoming Convention on Biological Diversity's COP13 happening in Mexico in the first blog in a special series.

Riina Jalonen, Associate Scientist at Bioversity International, explains why forest and landscape restoration matters in the context of the upcoming Thirteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP13) happening in Mexico and introduces a series of related blogs. This is the first blog in a COP13 series highlighting why mainstreaming agricultural and tree biodiversity in sustainable food and production systems is critical to achieve the CBD's Strategic Plan for Biodiversity. 


Will we get there?

We are more than halfway to the 15th Aichi Target on restoring world’s degraded ecosystems, will we meet it? 

Follow the CBD COP13 Forest and Landscape Restoration Blog Series as we lead up to this pinnacle event in Cancun, Mexico this December to learn where we have advanced and where more work is needed.

As the thirteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP13) prepares for its next meeting in Cancun, Mexico, 5-16 December, we will  be taking stock on the progress on one of its hallmark decisions from the previous meeting two years ago. At that time, the countries over the world came together to call on all “Parties and other Governments, intergovernmental organizations and other relevant organizations… give due attention to both native species and genetic diversity in conservation and restoration ” (XII/19(h)).

The decision stemmed from a global Thematic Study: Genetic considerations in ecosystem restoration using native tree species by Bioversity International researchers and partners that highlighted how limited attention to genetic diversity can jeopardize restoration success. If restored forests start off with seed from very few mother trees or trees in small forest fragments, they have little genetic diversity and are likely to be inbred, making them more likely to die, slower-growing and more vulnerable to environmental threats than the remnant forests they were intended to complement. Seed germination, seedling survival, growth, productivity, resistance to pests and diseases and ability to adapt to a changing environment all depend directly on the genetic diversity of tree seed.

The Aichi Biodiversity Targets agreed in Nagoya in 2010 included restoring 15% of the world’s degraded ecosystems by 2020 (Target 15). Subsequent assessments have led to estimates that for terrestrial ecosystems, this 15% means restoring a staggering 350 million hectares – and requires billions of tons of tree seed and trillions of seedlings.

Yet, anecdotal information and the few genetic studies conducted in restored forests, reviewed in the global Thematic Study, suggested that restoration practitioners were often unaware of the importance of careful seed selection and sourcing to restoration outcomes. Many restoration experts who had been closely involved in developing restoration methods stated that their methods did not incorporate seed selection guidelines.

Have our capacities in selecting and acquiring suitable seed improved in recent years, as the deadline for meeting Aichi Target 15 is fast approaching?

Acacia mangium trees planted in a restoration area after gold mining process in Colombia. Please credit: Bioversity International/E.ThomasThat is the question we asked a year ago, when we initiated a global survey on seed sourcing practices in forest and landscape restoration. The results, now under scientific review before publication in early 2017, suggest that capacity strengthening in selection of seed and seed sources is badly needed.

For example, the perception that seed sourced from nearby natural populations is best adapted to the restoration site is tightly held among many practitioners, despite the fact that restoration geneticists have long called for broadening seed collection to improve the adaptive capacity of future forests.

In addition to lack of awareness, other factors contributing to inadequate seed selection for restoration include the lack of seed sources, highlighted by many survey respondents; lack of policies and guidelines on genetic quality and origin of tree seed; poor enforcement of existing regulations; and project funding and evaluation mechanisms that tend to measure success in terms of numbers of trees planted rather than population viability and ecosystem functionality.

But as more and more countries pledge their commitments to the global restoration goals, there are signs of growing awareness on how seed selection contributes to restoration outcomes.

Laura Snook, Senior Scientist at Bioversity International, shares her views: “There is increasing interest expressed in the effective implementation of restoration on the ground, including seed sources and genetic considerations. Restoration practitioners and tree nursery managers need both information and practical decision-support tools to help guide them in selecting well-matched and sufficiently diverse seed sources for specific locations and restoration objectives. Bioversity International is producing these, along with training materials available in multiple languages.”

To foster effective restoration activities, COP13 is expected to adopt a Short-term Action Plan on Ecosystem Restoration and guidance on integrating biodiversity considerations in the process.

Over the month leading up to December’s COP13, a series of blogs on forest and landscape restoration will highlight elements of the proposed plan, discuss the importance of biodiversity and socio-economic considerations in restoration planning, and share how Bioversity International's work contributes to supporting the implementation of the action plan for sustained forest and landscape restoration outcomes.

We have a full line up of information and tools to share ranging from a Forest Genetic Training Guide used in Asia and the Pacific, to innovative farmers' views from West Africa on their local restoration efforts and much more.

Stay tuned! 

Riina Jalonen

This blog is the first in a series that Bioversity International is rolling out around COP13 - Mainstreaming Biodiversity for Well-Being.  The blogs will explain why mainstreaming agricultural and tree biodiversity is critical in sustainable food and production systems if we are to achieve the Convention on Biological Diversity's Strategic Action Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 that "By 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and widely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people".

Photo top: 
Sierra de los Cuchamatanes, Guatemala. Credit: Bioversity International/M. Ramirez
Photo middle: Acacia mangium trees planted in a restoration area after gold mining process in Colombia. Please credit: Bioversity International/E.Thomas