How SMART is Target 2 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy?

eu straegy

First page of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 (c) European Commission

“By 2020, ecosystems and their services are maintained and enhanced by establishing green infrastructure and restoring at least 15% of degraded ecosystems.”

From the very beginning this text raised numerous questions. What specifically does it say? The questions I find most relevant are: What makes an ecosystem degraded or restored? 15% of what exactly needs to be restored? How do we measure it? I thought that SER2014 would be the ideal place to look for answers.


SMART means Specific Measureable Achieveable Realistic and Time-bound in the jargon of  project planners and is used to describe the desirable characteristics of a good  project objective. How does SMART apply to the EU Biodiversity Target 2?

Here are a few hints that I took home from the 9th European Conference of the Society for Ecological Restoration:

Specific: What is a degraded/restored ecosystem? And what counts as restoration? Despite of the many definitions given in the scientific literature, decision-makers need a simple, unambiguous and objective way of looking at this question. “If the two extremes of a continuum of states of an ecosystem are ‘poor’ and ‘excellent’ then any significant improvement between these states should take us closer to the 15% target”, said the EU representative at the meeting. Improvements in any type of ecosystem counts, but only if it is significant, not ‘planting a tree in a parking lot’ as Mr. Murphy continued. So, what is a significant improvement? And how to describe the difference between two states?

A neat system of has been proposed by ARCADIS, the consultants hired by the EU to develop guidance to the Member States. This system, applicable to all major ecosystem types, proposes a ladder approach of four levels of ecosystem condition (from excellent to poor) and a set of descriptors for each state that should help define at what level an ecosystem is. And in the EU there is a common baseline for a start – the EU 2010 Biodiversity Baseline report.

Restoring native laureal forests in the Azores (c) SPEA

Restoring native laurel forests in the Azores (c) SPEA

Restoring seabird nest sites after fire (c) Joel Sérgio Pereira

Restoring seabird nest sites after fire (c) Joel S. Pereira








Our knowledge and understanding of ecosystems is improving. SER2014 featured a bewildering array of new studies and even more questions for further research. But beauty lies in simplicity, as they say, and that calls for a common standard, a guideline and a vision towards a goal that allows flexibility and adaptive approach.

And how do we Measure % of restoration? Read in our next posts.

One thought on “How SMART is Target 2 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy?

  1. Pingback: How do we measure biodiversity restoration? «

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