“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.
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.